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Pope John Paul II 1920-2005

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Arthur_Vandelay

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Mrs. Maggott said:
If one is a Christian, there is no question that God's "directions" regarding His worship in the Old Testament represents in fact, God's directions and not simply some writer's invention. Therefore, there is no sense in questioning that fact within the context of a discussion regarding believers and the Church. Of course, for those outside the Church, that is something else again. But you cannot mix the two. You cannot take opinions held by unbelievers relative to Scripture and Tradition and apply or attempt to apply them to believers.
But I'm not talking about opinions held be those outside the Church. I'm talking about the expression of opinions within the Church--among those who consider themselves to be believers. And there has been, historically, debate within the Church regarding God's directions--insofar as there has been debate regarding how to interpret the Scriptures. As Walter points out, when someone claims to be reporting God's word it doesn't necessarily follow that they are actually doing this.

In any case, I don't think it is necessary for the Vatican to preclude an exchange of ideas--within the Church--on any topic: if the Vatican line represents the Truth of the matter, then it should hold up under any rational inquiry (in other words, rational argument should "reveal" this).

So, if you do think it necessary for the Vatican to limit the free exchange of ideas among its members, does it follow that you believe that a free exchange of ideas is not a good thing in itself (that is, in all contexts), but is good only in certain contexts? If so, why those contexts, and not others? And do you similarly believe that democracy is not a good thing in itself (that is, in all contexts), but is good only in certain contexts? If so, why those contexts, and not others?

It's obvious that the Church isn't a democracy. Does it need to be a dictatorship?

I am well acquainted with what many at least American "liberals" have tried to do in the Catholic Church in this country - and it was not simply a discourse on the possibility of married priests. This is a matter of knowledge on my part, not speculation. I have many traditional R.C. friends who are very active in their parishes and so I am well aware of what has been going on for a long time in the American Church. I'm sorry if that offends anyone, but you cannot change the truth of the message by becoming annoyed at the messenger.
It's not a matter of offending anyone, per se. Rather, it's a matter of making a hasty generalisation about what "liberals" think, based upon anecdotal rather than statistical evidence. That may be offensive to some, but more importantly it's logically fallacious--and therefore the message is unreliable. I'm not calling you a liar or disputing the information that your traditional Roman Catholic friends have passed on to you; but such information cannot be reliably applied to the population of "liberal" Catholics as a whole. There are 66.3 million Roman Catholics in the United States alone, according to this estimate; you may have many traditional Roman Catholic friends, as you say, but I doubt you have enough to provide you with a sufficient sample of the 66.3 million Roman Catholics in the US (and if they're all traditionalists, you're presented with the problem of a biased sample). A further problem is that you haven't defined what "liberal" means in the context of the Church, and whether that definition accords with or differs from how the term "liberal" is understood in other contexts. For instance, you insist that the issue of married priests is an exclusively "liberal" concern, which is puzzling: I don't see why it would be impossible for people who consider themselves to be "conservative" (at least in other contexts) to be concerned with this matter also. Are there not married priests and pastors in other "conservative" churches? So if you're going to talk about "liberal" Catholics and Catholics who think the Church should change its policy on married priests in the same breath, you need to explain what "liberal" means.

For every interview with someone who believes that the Pope is the "be-all-and-end-all" in the Catholic Church (at least in the US), there are hundreds - no thousands - of examples that can be brought to the fore which show that far too many bishops and priests "go their own way" in these matters. They pay "lip service" to the authority of the Pope, but quietly go about remaking that Church in their own (usually liberal) image.
The interview to which you refer does not dispute that. It points out that the closer one gets to the centre of power in the Catholic Church, the less freedom one has. And bishops and priests who "go their own way" do so at the risk of being disciplined or even excommunicated (e.g. Sri Lanka's Tissa Balasuriya and Brazil's Leonardo Boff)--whereas I think it would be better for the Vatican, if it believes these figures to be in error, to demonstrate this by means of rational argument.

What more clear example of that can there be than the "seamless garment" criteria regarding an American Catholic politician's "overall" sanctity of life rating. In this "test", American bishops created a list of "pro-life" categories on which politicians were judged. Yes, abortion was one of the categories - but it was of no more importance than any of the others. The rest were mostly about "helping the poor and needy". Of course, the correct stance on all of these issues is/was liberal/socialist.
I suppose that this serves to demonstrate that Church rarely pleases everyone. "Liberals" may be unhappy with its position on contraception, women's rights, homosexuality, and so on. "Conservatives," as you suggest, are unhappy with its position on welfare and social justice. (You might have also mentioned the war, asylum seekers).

To imply that I am "guessing" about these matters because I am not a Catholic myself is simply wrong.
You're not guessing; but your information is based upon anecdotal evidence, and thus cannot be used to make reliable generalisations about Catholics, liberal or otherwise.

As for the Pope's statements on the homosexual "movement" - and make no mistake about it, he was not speaking about the actions or inclinations individual persons but of advocacy groups which are pushing their own agenda
Actually, he was speaking about both.

It is behavior that condemns or elevates, not proclivities.
This is where the wording of the document becomes ambiguous. The inclination itself is not a sin, but is nonetheless a "strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

Still, you cannot expect the Pope to be politically correct when he speaks for the Church.
We can, however, expect the Pope to listen to those who feel marginalised by the Church, and to try to appreciate matters from their perspective. Is it necessarily "politically correct" to walk a mile in another man's moccasins? A spokesperson for Rainbow Sash recently said the following in a forum on Catholicism:
I'm one of those people who has come forward honestly and openly within the church, and said I am a gay Catholic and I seek dialogue, I seek openness, I seek the ability to work together with the church for a new understanding of sexuality and homosexuality and because I do that, I have not only lost my job as a Catholic teacher and educator, I'm also refused communion on a regular basis, for doing that. Cardinal Law has moved around priests over decades to the extent where he more or less had to get out of town because he could have been sent to jail. He is now the archpriest of one of the major basilicas in Rome and a major, major figure of what's going to happen in the conclave. How can you possibly explain that difference . . . ?
There are those within the church who do seek dialogue with gay Catholics: Archbishop Flynn, according to this Catholic News Service report, allows Communion to be given to Rainbow Sash members. In the same article it is reported that "[font=Arial, Helvetica]at one Mass a group of lay people tried to block the aisles to prevent sash-wearers from receiving Communion." [/font]Is that a demonstration of the "respect and love" people are supposed to show each other?
 

Walter

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I am aware that I said I said enough, but it's that certain disrespect of other beliefs that always gets me going... :(

There is no "problem" for Christians; we know or we certainly wouldn't be bothered following a faith - call it "religion" if you will - in which we had no "faith". Of course, non-believers "don't know" or, in some cases, assert that they do know and that Scripture is merely a human creation.
If you say you "know" that this is actually God's very word, I must ask you to lay proof or I shall challenge, question and disrespect this "knowledge", if you say you "believe", I shall treat your beliefs with the uttermost respect...

But all the - rational - proofs you could possibly come up with won't hold water, so that "knowledge" you are referring to can at best be that certain irrational "knowledge" of an eternal "truth" that is buried deep in oneself and different and separated from the logos. But this "knowledge" is probably the same the Upanishads and Buddha, Sri Aurobindo or Meister Eckhart - to name but a few examples - possess about God and - I believe - they all are right, even when their approaches are different. But this sort of truth and knowledge, the spiritual reality, exists on a different plain from the physical and rational reality we live in.

That is a fallacy put forth by many who make much of the "historical" Jesus as if He was somehow "different" from the Christ of Scripture and the Church. You will find that most who espouse that view also believe that He was nothing more than a "good teacher" and a "good man". But as C. S. Lewis pointed out, that's not what Christ Himself said. So either He was the Son of God or He was a liar or He was demented. Those are the only options open under the circumstances.

No, according to both Scripture and the testimonies of witnesses present at the time (most of which is found in Scripture), the Church was founded by Christ and its spread entrusted to His Apostles and disciples as well as those chosen by them into the future. Certainly in the beginning, many of the Lord's Jewish disciples believed that the Church would be limited to the Jews, but that belief was soon put right as Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles while Peter continued his work among the Jews. But Christ certainly intended to found a Church to be His Body in the world until the time He comes again.
A fallacy it may be, but do we "know"? Do we in fact know anything that Christ said? Do we in fact know whether or not he actually existed? Any actual proof would be much appreciated.

Talking about "testimonies" and "witnesses" here, suggests little knowledge of the historical context of scripture. The earliest of the Synoptical Gospels (Mark) was written probably about 70CE (according to my copy of the Bible) that means at least one generation after Christs purported death. John's Gospel was written even later, probably after 100CE. Acts can be dated close to Mark and the earliest extant writings - and also the only first-hand autobiographical documents - in the Canon are parts of Paul's letters. And while Paul probably had met Peter and James, Paul had met the Christ only in his visions. But visions, no matter how vivid they may have been, don't make for a reliable account of Christ...

So, where are those eyewitnesses and testimonies, that we could actually rely on? Christianity has none, it is that simple, the best we have in canon as well as apocryphs is hearsay, blurred by time and retelling or - in other cases - a biased point of view (Josephus). But that is basically the same quality we find in myths...

Who may actually represent an eyewitness is James, the brother of Jesus, but of the one letter that has been accepted as Canon in the NT his authorship is disputed and for the rest of his teachings, those unfortunately don't go well together with the Christian doctrines. And James - not Peter - was the one who after Christ's death became the leader of the Jewish "group" and thus probably was the one to spread the "gospel" among the Jews. That Simon - Petrus, 'the rock' - had different things to tell may have had other reasons (if you carefully read what is told about him - even if only in Canonical Scripure - you may get an idea about his character) and who of the two actually told the "truth" is much disputed...

What we do have, are writings of the first 4 centuries and it appears that of the dozen of religious "schools" or "groups" that existed at about the time of the beginning of the 1st century the one that happened to survive as the victor - not the least bit because they were the one that could arrange themselves with the Roman Emperors - began dictating what is Truth and Canon and what not, and as soon as their own persecution ended began to persecute the others as heretics. It was as always, the winner takes it all and writes history.

And where in Canonical Scripture is the Christ purported to claim wanting to found a new Chruch, one that is entirely different from the Jewish one? What indications do we have for that? Scotsboy is much closer to the point when he says that Paul - and I would add "with the support of Peter" - was indeed the driving force behind the new "Christian Church"...

And when I hear some Christians say they "know" that their scripture is literal "Truth", and - literally - the word of God, I am tempted to think, that it wouldn't make me wonder, when someone who readily believes in creation as reported in the OT (which one of those, btw.? The accounts are not congruent), in a worldwide flood, in virgin birth, miraculous food- and beverage-multiplication, resurrection after death and ascent to heaven should also have a strange relationship with "Truth" and "Knowledge"...

"When the wise man points at the moon, the dumb people are only looking at his finger", and that, I think, is the problem how many Christians approach Christ's teachings...
 
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Mrs. Maggott

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Yes, Jesus called Himself the Son of God. Why do you think that they crucified Him? Certainly not for raising the dead or making the blind see, the lame walk and the dumb speak! If He had presented Himself as nothing more than another desert holy man, He would probably have lived a long and uneventful life. However, claiming to be the Messiah - the Son of God as He defined it to the Pharisees - put Him on a collision course with the Sanhedrin AND Rome.

Yes, Jesus founded the Church to bring salvation to all mankind. It is in the Church that salvation is found albeit, we as Christians are not to make judgments or entertain speculation regarding where anyone - in or out of the Church - stands with God. That's what Christ meant when He warned against "judging" people. As C. S. Lewis once said so succinctly, it is none of our business.

Yes, Christians "know". If one believes that something is true, then one acts as if one knows that it is true. (I believe that the Triborough Bridge is strong enough to sustain the weight of my vehicle even if no other cars are on the bridge - so I drive across it secure in the "knowledge" that it will fulfill its function.) What then is the difference between "belief" and "knowledge" when what arises from both is the same? Furthermore, most Christians believe that there have been more than enough proofs presented throught the ages to substantiate their claim of Christ's divinity just as there has been more than enough proof to validate the strength of the Triborough bridge. Of course, just as some of those who witnessed His miracles refused to believe His claims, there are those today who disbelieve and would continue to do so even if He appeared in the sky with the angels. None are so blind as those who will not see.

On the other hand, it is understandable that many modern people don't believe given what a hash has been made of the Church by "believers". Instead of a place of peace and love, the Church has become - indeed, has been through much of Her history - a place more fitting for the enemy than God. Of course, there have always been great Saints and miracles, but as St. Nilus predicted in the 14th Century, the Church in the late 20th Century is a sad place full of apathy and worldliness. Yet, we can take solace in the fact that Christ also predicted this sad state of affairs and will deal with it in His own good time.

And as for the "proof" you demand: I suggest that you pray to God and allow Him to provide it you. Or you could read the works of C. S. Lewis, an avowed atheist who upon studying the matter in depth, determined (much against his will) that in fact, Christianity was the Truth. Nor can anyone claim that Lewis was a poor scholar or a stupid man, so if you are indeed "open minded", you might learn much to your advantage. On the other hand, if you don't want your comfortable assumptions assailed, I would warn against Lewis. Intellectually honest people are hard pressed to refute his points and I will credit you with such honesty under the circumstances. However, it is an interesting adventure should you care to undertake it.
 

Arthur_Vandelay

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Mrs. Maggott said:
Yes, Jesus called Himself the Son of God. Why do you think that they crucified Him? Certainly not for raising the dead or making the blind see, the lame walk and the dumb speak! If He had presented Himself as nothing more than another desert holy man, He would probably have lived a long and uneventful life. However, claiming to be the Messiah - the Son of God as He defined it to the Pharisees - put Him on a collision course with the Sanhedrin AND Rome.

Yes, Jesus founded the Church to bring salvation to all mankind. It is in the Church that salvation is found albeit, we as Christians are not to make judgments or entertain speculation regarding where anyone - in or out of the Church - stands with God. That's what Christ meant when He warned against "judging" people. As C. S. Lewis once said so succinctly, it is none of our business.
As Walter points out: "Do we in fact know anything that Christ said? Do we in fact know whether or not he actually existed? Any actual proof would be much appreciated."

Yes, Christians "know". If one believes that something is true, then one acts as if one knows that it is true.
But it doesn't follow that one actually knows that it is true. Christians don't "know;" they only act as if they know (and the same applies to any other kind of religious belief).

(I believe that the Triborough Bridge is strong enough to sustain the weight of my vehicle even if no other cars are on the bridge - so I drive across it secure in the "knowledge" that it will fulfill its function.)
But that is quite obviously a different matter. Your belief in this case is derived from experience: your experience of having crossed this particular bridge x amount of times before, your experience of having crossed similar bridges x amount of times before, and others' experiences of doing likewise. Your "belief," in this case, is really an instance of inductive reasoning, and is founded upon experimentation. None of the apriorism inherent in religious belief is present here.

What then is the difference between "belief" and "knowledge" when what arises from both is the same?
To suppose that there is no difference between religious belief on the one hand, and the kind of knowledge based upon observation, experimentation and hard evidence that enables you to believe that you can drive across the Triborough Bridge safely on the other, is to argue something that I would have thought would be foreign to most Christians. My 12 years of Catholic education led me to understand that (religious) belief is belief in spite of the lack of evidence--"on the strength of the absurd," as I think Kierkegaard said. The kind of knowledge derived from observation, experimentation and hard evidence cannot yield knowledge of God (or other things that lie beyond the realm of the physical, the testable, the observable); yet Christians believe all the same. Isn't that what separates belief from knowledge?

Furthermore, most Christians believe that there have been more than enough proofs presented throught the ages to substantiate their claim of Christ's divinity just as there has been more than enough proof to validate the strength of the Triborough bridge.
So Christians have scientific evidence of Christ's divinity (which is what you're claiming if you argue for an equivalence between the proof of Christ's divinity and the proof of the strength of the Triborough bridge)? That, too, I suspect, would be news to many Christians--not mention everyone else. What is this evidence?

None are so blind as those who will not see.
An atheist can say as much to a Christian. A polytheist can say as much to a monotheist. An evolutionist can say as much to a creationist. A liberal can say as much to a conservative. A "dissident" theologian can say as much to the Pope. What's your point?

And as for the "proof" you demand: I suggest that you pray to God and allow Him to provide it you.
This begs the question. Praying to God for certain knowledge of God presupposes a belief in God, and belief in God--you argue--amounts to certain knowledge of God.

Or you could read the works of C. S. Lewis, an avowed atheist who upon studying the matter in depth, determined (much against his will) that in fact, Christianity was the Truth. Nor can anyone claim that Lewis was a poor scholar or a stupid man, so if you are indeed "open minded", you might learn much to your advantage. On the other hand, if you don't want your comfortable assumptions assailed, I would warn against Lewis. Intellectually honest people are hard pressed to refute his points and I will credit you with such honesty under the circumstances. However, it is an interesting adventure should you care to undertake it.
However great a scholar Lewis was, this is simply an appeal to authority. (And define "intellectually honest.")
 

Mrs. Maggott

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There has been enough scholarship on the matter to prove the existence of Jesus of Nazareth but if you wish to know about it, I'm afraid you will have to do the research. I haven't got either the time or the need. Indeed, for true scholars (rather than simple "debunkers"), the existence of Jesus of Nazareth has never been in question since there is plenty of testimony from non-Christian sources that not only did He live, but He also died as Scripture indicated.

Intellectual honesty means being willing to admit in the face of a reasonable argument that you might (just might) be wrong. Unfortunately, it is becoming a rare commodity these days of ideological rigidity*. (*the refusal to accept factual evidence if it flies in the face of ideological beliefs.)

And now, as this thread has become a matter of "prove the existence of God" - something which no one is able to do either in the positive or the negative - I shall take my leave. I will make only one final comment: for those who believe no explanation is necessary; for those who disbelieve no explanation is possible.
 

Walter

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Mrs. Maggott said:
Intellectual honesty means being willing to admit in the face of a reasonable argument that you might (just might) be wrong. Unfortunately, it is becoming a rare commodity these days of ideological rigidity*. (*the refusal to accept factual evidence if it flies in the face of ideological beliefs.)
Eventually you have said something regarding that matter, where I entirely agree with you. And I should like to add that people, these days, just too readily point out the mote in their brothers eye (Matthew 7:5)...

Cheers
 

Mrs. Maggott

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Walter said:
Eventually you have said something regarding that matter, where I entirely agree with you. And I should like to add that people, these days, just too readily point out the mote in their brothers eye (Matthew 7:5)...

Cheers
Post Scriptum to the above: Actually, the mote/beam has nothing to do with an inability and/or desire to acknowledge that one may in fact be wrong when faced with credible evidence regarding that fact. Nevertheless, what you have cited is a real problem with many who present themselves as "Christians", especially many who consider themselves "born again" Evangelicals. This constant drum beat of damning those who aren't "born again" is a particular problem called "triumphalism" - and it is decidedly un-Christian. Indeed, as I pointed out, Christ particularly forbade His followers from making pronouncements or even entertaining thoughts regarding where other people stand with God.

In the Pre-Communion prayers in the Orthodox Church, the believer acknowledges that he is "first" among sinners. This is not a false modesty or humility. When we Orthodox consider our sinfulness, we do so only with reference to what we could or should be rather than what others are. After all, God doesn't mark on a curve. If we consider our failings in light of others, we will doubltless be able to find people who are far, far worse sinners than we are. So we are not permitted to think of ourselves in that light. Rather, I must think of how great a sinner I am and how far I have fallen short from what I should be given all that God has provided for me in my life! If we examine ourselves in that light, then saying that we are the "first" of sinners (except for a very few great saints) can be considered fairly accurate.
 

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Let me also add, that I did not question the existence of God here, but what I do question is the monopolistic claim certain religious groups - or churches if you will - lay upon him. In other words I do not believe that God is Catholic. Or Orthodox. Or Jewish. In my beliefs such a view - together with the view that he must be worshipped following certain rites to gain salvation - simply would limit God as an All-father and All-mother. In my beliefs many paths lead to God. And Christianity - just like many other belief-systems - can be one of these paths. But it is IMO definitely not the one and only path....
 

Barliman Butterbur

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Walter said:
Let me also add, that I did not question the existence of God here, but what I do question is the monopolistic claim certain religious groups - or churches if you will - lay upon him. In other words I do not believe that God is Catholic. Or Orthodox. Or Jewish. In my beliefs such a view - together with the view that he must be worshipped following certain rites to gain salvation - simply would limit God as an All-father and All-mother. In my beliefs many paths lead to God. And Christianity - just like many other belief-systems - can be one of these paths. But it is IMO definitely not the one and only path....
And a most fervent AMEN to that! (...assuming for the moment that there actually is some sort of Sentient Prime Force acting with purpose. And if there is, I highly doubt that it needs either our love or worship, as the several religions so desperately admonish.)

Barley
 

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Walter said:
Let me also add, that I did not question the existence of God here, but what I do question is the monopolistic claim certain religious groups - or churches if you will - lay upon him. In other words I do not believe that God is Catholic. Or Orthodox. Or Jewish. In my beliefs such a view - together with the view that he must be worshipped following certain rites to gain salvation - simply would limit God as an All-father and All-mother. In my beliefs many paths lead to God. And Christianity - just like many other belief-systems - can be one of these paths. But it is IMO definitely not the one and only path....
Many people hold such pan-theistic views although they do not call them that. However, if you do hold such views, then you must realize the Jesus of Nazareth cannot be among those whom you think of as a "path" to God since He said, "No man comes to the Father save by Me."

It is much the same situation as those who are willing to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but disbelieve His claim to divinity. Since He made that claim - and that is not a matter of question since it was reported by sources outside of His circle and is part of the historical record - you must realize - as did C. S. Lewis - that He was either a liar or a madman or - as Lewis chose - what He represented Himself to be: the Son of God, the Third Person of the Trinity. There is simply no "fourth" choice - i.e. that He was merely a very good man. Of course, the choice belongs to the individual. Still, I think that if someone is truly trying to find God, He will make Himself known to that person so long as he or she remains open minded enough to accept the contact when it comes.
 

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Mrs. Maggott said:
Many people hold such pan-theistic views although they do not call them that. However, if you do hold such views, then you must realize the Jesus of Nazareth cannot be among those whom you think of as a "path" to God since He said, "No man comes to the Father save by Me."

It is much the same situation as those who are willing to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but disbelieve His claim to divinity. Since He made that claim - and that is not a matter of question since it was reported by sources outside of His circle and is part of the historical record - you must realize - as did C. S. Lewis - that He was either a liar or a madman or - as Lewis chose - what He represented Himself to be: the Son of God, the Third Person of the Trinity. There is simply no "fourth" choice - i.e. that He was merely a very good man. Of course, the choice belongs to the individual. Still, I think that if someone is truly trying to find God, He will make Himself known to that person so long as he or she remains open minded enough to accept the contact when it comes.
Ach! My dear Mrs. Maggott, you never give up, do you? ;)

I would have assumed that I made my standpoint sufficiently clear regarding that. Here it is in brief once again - but this time I am heavily borrowing from Joseph Campbell:

To read [all of the bible (my altering)] as a chronicle of fact is - to say the least - to miss the point. To say a little more, it is to prove oneself a dolt. And to add to this, the men who put these books together were not dolts but knew precisely what they were doing - as the evidence of their manner of work reveals at every turn.

In my own words: we simply have no historical record of the Jesus of Nazareth and what we have extant in the Canon are works that have been written and edited decades to centuries after the purported death of the Christ. Thus everything he is purported to have said may or may not have been said by him. It may as well have been added or altered much later. Now I could provide you with a dozen statements also purported to have been said by the Jesus of Nazareth, which are IMO quite discongruent to the John 14:6 you are quoting here (aside from the fact that John's was the one of the 4 canonical gospels written latest, according to current biblical schlarship the dating of John's gospel (cf. one of my previous posts) pretty much excludes that the author ever could have met the Jesus of Nazareth in person)

But the logic you refer to, which is put forth by Lewis in his Mere Christianity - only would work if the Bible were a factual report and one could take for granted that Jesus of Nazareth actually made such claims...

When I said that IMO Christianity can be one path to God, I did not mean that the interpretation of everything found in the Christian Canon as the literal truth is prerequisite - or even of much help...

Now let's agree to disagree on that matter, you have not provided anything factual that could support your point of view regarding the accuracy of Scripture and thus could convince me. On the other hand my arguments are probably far too heretical to come even close to being seriously considered by you.
 

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Certainly we can “agree to disagree” but there are one or two things that you said to which I choose to respond because they lead to an erroneous view of the matter.

While the final “canon” of Scripture was not codified until several hundred years after Christ’s death and resurrection, that does not mean that it was written at that time. Matthew and John were Christ’s Apostles and Luke and Mark disciples. That is, they were with Jesus during His ministry on earth and remained in the Church after His ascension. Now, while John, a fisherman, may have been illiterate – at least until Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit - Matthew was a tax collector and Luke a physician and therefore it is fairly obvious that both were literate.

Furthermore, even if the Gospels were not “written down” immediately upon the founding of the Church, that which was contained within them was faithfully passed on - as were most other “histories” in those days – by word of mouth and then eventually written down. In fact, the books of the New Testament were fully written within 30 years after Christ's ascension. Now at the time the Gospels were in fact written down, many who lived during the events they described were still alive and able to testify to their validity. And remember, this does not even consider those things that by their very title were “written” - such as the Epistles (letters) of Paul, Peter, James and John, all of which refer directly to Christ’s claim to be the Son of God, the salvation of the world. So unless you wish to infer that there was some sort of giant conspiracy involving everyone around Jesus, then your claim that what we know of Christ’s claim to divinity comes only from documents written hundreds of years after His death simply has no basis in fact or reason.

Parenthetically to the above, why on earth would anyone want to create such a conspiracy? It isn't as if being a Christian was a passport to wealth, ease and a good life. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was often a ticket to a horrible death unless, of course, you choose to believe - as do some people about the Holocaust - that the persecution of the Christians before Constantine is a myth. Indeed, there is nothing that testifies so strongly to the truth of the claims of those who followed Christ than their willingness to lay down their lives for His sake! And since this included so many of those who were actually with Him, it can't just be a matter of a lot of gullible fools being tricked into believing what the "insiders" know is a lie. Nor can it even be the actions of a whole bunch of deluded religious zealots. Most of those who died - at least at the beginning - were themselves "insiders" and very few could be described as zealots. Peter, James and John were fishermen and Matthew a tax collector. Only Andrew and Philip were followers of John the Baptist and might therefore be described as at least a little "zealous" in their religion. But there is nothing to suggest that Jesus chose His followers from any zealot group.

However, even if all of His early followers were zealots, that does not mean that they would have been willing to lie about what they saw and heard. In fact, it would indicate exactly the opposite; their love and fear of God would insure that they were extremely circumspect in attributing to Him anything that was questionable. At the time of the early Church, the Jewish teacher Gamaliel warned the Sanhedrin about their persecution of Christ's followers. He told them that if the sect were "of man" it would soon die out as so many had in the past (Jesus was hardly the first to claim to be the Messiah!). However, if it were "of God" then not only would they be unable to do anything to stop it, but they would be fighting against God's will.

My second point is this: you dismiss Lewis so casually with regard to his research into the matter, but one wonders if you would be quite so dismissive had he come to a different conclusion? Might your own conclusion regarding his findings have more to do with his determination that Christianity was true than with any fault in his methodology? Perhaps you would have gladly embraced Lewis’s conclusion if he had determined that it was all a myth. If that is the case, then the problem is not with the method but the conclusion and that speaks volumes regarding objectivity.

But you are, of course right to say that each must reach his own conclusion in these matters. After all, Christ said that not all are called and that in fact, no one comes to Him unless His Father calls them to do so. And so, as you noted, we shall "agree to disagree".
 

Walter

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Mrs. Maggott said:
Certainly we can “agree to disagree” but there are one or two things that you said to which I choose to respond because they lead to an erroneous view of the matter.
Indeed there appear to be some erroneous views of the matter and according to Biblical scholarship these appear to be yours.

Mrs. Maggott said:
While the final “canon” of Scripture was not codified until several hundred years after Christ’s death and resurrection, that does not mean that it was written at that time. Matthew and John were Christ’s Apostles and Luke and Mark disciples. That is, they were with Jesus during His ministry on earth and remained in the Church after His ascension. Now, while John, a fisherman, may have been illiterate – at least until Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit - Matthew was a tax collector and Luke a physician and therefore it is fairly obvious that both were literate.

Furthermore, even if the Gospels were not “written down” immediately upon the founding of the Church, that which was contained within them was faithfully passed on - as were most other “histories” in those days – by word of mouth and then eventually written down. In fact, the books of the New Testament were fully written within 30 years after Christ's ascension. Now at the time the Gospels were in fact written down, many who lived during the events they described were still alive and able to testify to their validity. And remember, this does not even consider those things that by their very title were “written” - such as the Epistles (letters) of Paul, Peter, James and John, all of which refer directly to Christ’s claim to be the Son of God, the salvation of the world. So unless you wish to infer that there was some sort of giant conspiracy involving everyone around Jesus, then your claim that what we know of Christ’s claim to divinity comes only from documents written hundreds of years after His death simply has no basis in fact or reason.
Indeed, that is the –charming – image as it is portrayed by many who claim that the New Testament is nothing but the factual report of contemporaries of Jesus of Nazareth who must be considered eyewitnesses of what happened.

But again, Biblical scholarship suggests you are way off the mark. And for that one doesn't have to turn to those "debunkers of faith", a simple modern copy of the Bible with some introduction to the chapters – like the German one I have - or a good encyclopaedia would be fine (maybe try Encyclopaedia Britannica's entries on "Matthew, Gospel according to" and "John , Gospel according to" for a start) to cast considerable doubts on your charming image of the tax-collector and the fisherman writing their gospels – at the age of 80 (or 100 respectively), the one having to rely on the copy of a disciple (Matthew was later than Mark and has – just like the third of the "synoptic Gospels" Luke's some evident dependence on Mark's earlier piece)...

Let's face it, there is no evidence whatsoever - except if we consider the biblical Canon as "evidence" and a factual report" - that anything Jesus of Nazareth is purported to have said or done, has been actually been said or done. Just like there is no evidence - but many indications against that idea - that anyone of those people who may have met the Jesus of Nazareth (supposing he actually existed as the person he is portrayed) have been writing what is traded as today's Christian Canon ...


In one of my previous posts I already stated the dates which are estimated by scholars for the various pieces (most are from my copy of the Bible) of the NT and I have some difficulties to understand why you keep re-iterating these fallacies but don't bother to post anything which could – even remotely - back up your "eyewitnesses-and-testimonies-hypothesis".

Mrs. Maggott said:
Parenthetically to the above, why on earth would anyone want to create such a conspiracy? It isn't as if being a Christian was a passport to wealth, ease and a good life. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was often a ticket to a horrible death unless, of course, you choose to believe - as do some people about the Holocaust - that the persecution of the Christians before Constantine is a myth. Indeed, there is nothing that testifies so strongly to the truth of the claims of those who followed Christ than their willingness to lay down their lives for His sake! And since this included so many of those who were actually with Him, it can't just be a matter of a lot of gullible fools being tricked into believing what the "insiders" know is a lie. Nor can it even be the actions of a whole bunch of deluded religious zealots. Most of those who died - at least at the beginning - were themselves "insiders" and very few could be described as zealots. Peter, James and John were fishermen and Matthew a tax collector. Only Andrew and Philip were followers of John the Baptist and might therefore be described as at least a little "zealous" in their religion. But there is nothing to suggest that Jesus chose His followers from any zealot group.

However, even if all of His early followers were zealots, that does not mean that they would have been willing to lie about what they saw and heard. In fact, it would indicate exactly the opposite; their love and fear of God would insure that they were extremely circumspect in attributing to Him anything that was questionable. At the time of the early Church, the Jewish teacher Gamaliel warned the Sanhedrin about their persecution of Christ's followers. He told them that if the sect were "of man" it would soon die out as so many had in the past (Jesus was hardly the first to claim to be the Messiah!). However, if it were "of God" then not only would they be unable to do anything to stop it, but they would be fighting against God's will.
The situation at the beginning of the 1st millennium was indeed difficult and the political constellation complex - it was not nearly the peaceful Hellenistic countryside it is portrayed as in the Canonical writings. And much more complex than you portray it here. As I already mentioned in a previous post there were several - in part quite radical - religious groups at the time in this area. Whether Jesus of Nazareth himself or some of his followers were involved and - if so - how deeply into the business of the radical and militant groups is still subject of dispute among serious scholars. And since Christianity and today's Judaism are the only major survivors of these groups (today's Gnosticism is a somewhat different case) they have been able to write this chapter of "history" from their point of view. Moreover, it appears that Christianity barely missed any chance to manipulate the recordings in favour of their case, and destroyed pretty much everything else they could lay their hands on as "heretical" - as well as the heretics too. Unfortunately the Christian church(es) never got along well with those who did not share their point of view on their doctrines and thus it is no wonder when many of today's followers share this tradition of little understanding and tolerance.

Luckily in the middle of the 20th century some pieces – namely those found in the Dead Sea region and those at Nag Hammadi - re-appeared that enable us now to examine the situation from more than one angle - the angle of Christian Canon - and serious scholars have provided us with many new aspects of this important phase in human culture. And when I say serious scholars, I mean scholars like Esther de Boer, Robert Eisenman, Marvin Meyer, Elaine Pagels, Michael Wise. Not just some "debunkers of faith". May I invite you to read what they have to say about the situation as portrayed in Canonical and other Scripture? I mentioned the book references elsewhere.

Mrs. Maggott said:
My second point is this: you dismiss Lewis so casually with regard to his research into the matter, but one wonders if you would be quite so dismissive had he come to a different conclusion? Might your own conclusion regarding his findings have more to do with his determination that Christianity was true than with any fault in his methodology? Perhaps you would have gladly embraced Lewis’s conclusion if he had determined that it was all a myth. If that is the case, then the problem is not with the method but the conclusion and that speaks volumes regarding objectivity.
No, I wouldn't have treated Lewis' conclusions any different had he come to another conclusion. Lewis converted to Christianity 1931 and Mere Christianity was broadcasted as a series of radio talks in the 1940s and published as a book 1952. The broadcasting date precedes the findings of Nag Hammadi and Qumran and even 1952 much of that material was still not widely known. And as these findings help to throw a little more light on that issue and also provide us with material that puts emphasis on different aspects, I wonder if Lewis had still converted to Christianity had he known back then what is known today.

But would I have been in Lewis' stead back in 1931, had the same background as he did, be as well read and intelligent he was and - furthermore - consider Biblical Canon as literally true and a report of facts there is a slight chance I might have come to the same conclusions he did - despite the countless abhorrent crimes that have been committed in the name of Christ and in the name of the Church since (some of them with permission or at the order of the highest Catholic authorities)...
 
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prev. post contd...

On the other hand there are a few contemporaries of Lewis and Tolkien which show a much broader understanding of the phenomena of language, myths, magic and religion and their intertwinements – like e.g. Ernst Cassirer, Robert Graves, James Frazer and – second to none – Joseph Campbell. So - given the choice – I prefer to tread the paths they showed (and not any narrow road that might have me end up as a hypocrite who has no understanding and little tolerance for those who do not share my beliefs) and see the Biblical myths as what they are: Myths, which are in clear relationship with other myths of our world and which should not be examined as something entirely separated but rather seen in their context.

But the fact that Scripture is much rather a collection of myths than a chronicle of facts, does not at all diminish their moral and religious value, IMO. I should like to think that if I am to believe in God I am to believe in God, rather than asking for proofs. And IMO treating Scripture as a Chronicle of facts and thus presuming that there is evidence or proof for my beliefs is cheating...

Mrs. Maggott said:
But you are, of course right to say that each must reach his own conclusion in these matters. After all, Christ said that not all are called and that in fact, no one comes to Him unless His Father calls them to do so. And so, as you noted, we shall "agree to disagree".
Correction, please... we don't know if Christ did say that, but the gospel of John (6) has Christ saying that. According to what we have discussed by now, this is not quite the same. But maybe it consoles you to think that I am one of those who are not "called" to come to him. But indeed we will have to agree to disagree unless ... well .... unless you're interested to "learn much to your advantage" and are ready to have "your comfortable assumptions assailed" by studying some good books dealing with biblical and apocryphal scripture that cast a somewhat different light at the Christian Canon.

However, I can assure you, it is an interesting adventure and worthwhile, should you care to undertake it. ;)

But now I think I have overstressed my welcome here and shall bow out. In case you should actually find something factual that could support your "eyewitnesses-and-testimonies-hypothesis" and wish to discuss it in private, please feel free to contact me...
 
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Barliman Butterbur

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Walter said:
...second to none – Joseph Campbell.
Amen, brother! Campbell was a nonpareil pioneer in the comparison of the various religious belief systems, and saw each of them as a variation on the same Human Myth. (I call it the different toppings on the Divine Pizza.) I had a VCR set of his series "The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers" that I gave to one of my daughters years ago, and now have the DVD version of same.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the series, go to www.mysticfire.com/.

Follow your bliss!

Barley
 
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Mrs. Maggott

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Alas, all those persons you mentioned and their work are as much if not more suspect than the Gospel writers in the first century. At least they did not have an "agenda" other than to state the truth as they knew it - and, by the way, you still have not addressed the issue of why people were willing to die in Christ's Name and Cause if it was all just a "myth" or perhaps you think that that also is a "myth". Your "modern scholarship" is filled with those who wish nothing more than to debunk religion in general and Christianity in particular so that they can substitute for it the religion of humanism where Man - or Man as represented by the State and its elites - is god.

Oh, and by the way, as a "devout atheist", whatever makes you believe that Lewis considered Scripture to be literally true? That is hardly the case at all. In fact, he was far more inclined to believe as your own "scholars" do than to simply accept as true anything said in Scripture. Also, I suggest you read Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived at the time of Christ and whose works are well known. I think that you will find that absolutely no one - least of all the early Church - thought of the political and national climate as a "peaceful Hellenic countryside" especially given that, as Christ predicted, Jerusalem was destroyed and the diaspora begun some 70 years after the Church was founded.

However, obviously there is no common ground on which we can meet, so further discussions are useless. You don't believe or trust those whom I present as valid witnesses and I certainly don't believe or trust what passes for "modern scholarship". I've seen far too much deceit and malice from your "scholars" regarding Christianity to believe much of anything that they have to say. However, as I mentioned before, not everyone is called to follow Christ. For those who are, no explanation is required while obviously for those who are not, none will suffice. So let us leave the matter as it is and believe as we wish to believe since neither of us can "prove" his/her point. :rolleyes:
 

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Barliman Butterbur said:
Amen, brother! Campbell was a nonpareil pioneer in the comparison of the various religious belief systems, and saw each of them as a variation on the same Human Myth. (I call it the different toppings on the Divine Pizza.) I had a VCR set of his series "The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers" that I gave to one of my daughters years ago, and now have the DVD version of same.
The Video/DVD was what set me on Campbell's track. If you find the time you should read his 4 volume masterpiece The Masks of God. It is not really up to date, but still absolutely valid in pretty much every aspect he covers.

----

Mrs. Maggott said:
Also, I suggest you read Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived at the time of Christ and whose works are well known.
Walter said:
So, where are those eyewitnesses and testimonies, that we could actually rely on? Christianity has none, it is that simple, the best we have in canon as well as apocryphs is hearsay, blurred by time and retelling or - in other cases - a biased point of view (Josephus). But that is basically the same quality we find in myths...
The difference between you and me is evidently that I do read the books (and posts of my fellow Tolkien fans) before I decide whether to approve or criticize - and in some cases - dismiss them.... :rolleyes:
 

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Barliman Butterbur said:
Amen, brother! Campbell was a nonpareil pioneer in the comparison of the various religious belief systems, and saw each of them as a variation on the same Human Myth. (I call it the different toppings on the Divine Pizza.) I had a VCR set of his series "The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers" that I gave to one of my daughters years ago, and now have the DVD version of same.
The Video/DVD was what set me on Campbell's track. If you find the time you should read his 4 volume masterpiece The Masks of God. It is not really up to date, but still absolutely valid in pretty much every aspect he covers.

----

Mrs. Maggott said:
Also, I suggest you read Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived at the time of Christ and whose works are well known.
Walter said:
So, where are those eyewitnesses and testimonies, that we could actually rely on? Christianity has none, it is that simple, the best we have in canon as well as apocryphs is hearsay, blurred by time and retelling or - in other cases - a biased point of view (Josephus). But that is basically the same quality we find in myths...
Now, the difference between you and me is evidently that I do read a book (or a post of one of my fellow Tolkien fans here) before I decide whether to approve or criticize or - in some cases - eventually dismiss them. :rolleyes:

But I do agree with you, that we should no longer waste each others time - and stress our readers patience - with this discussion at this point. And should you eventually decide to read those works I mentioned - preferrably with and open mind and intellectual honesty - or come up with more factual evidence than what is in the gospels or in the Bellum Judaicum and wish to discuss it, you know where to find me...

Cheers
 

Barliman Butterbur

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Walter said:
The Video/DVD was what set me on Campbell's track. If you find the time you should read his 4 volume masterpiece The Masks of God. It is not really up to date, but still absolutely valid in pretty much every aspect he covers.
The Masks of God, eh? Sounds intriguing! I'm not sure how it could be out of date, since the subject of the God of holy books' existence is impossible to settle. (Well, it is with me: that the "God" of holy books is a creation of Man.) But I will look it up.

I do agree with you, that we [Walter vs. M] should no longer waste each others time - and stress our readers patience - with this discussion at this point.
Jousting with M is a testament to the patience of the jouster! ;) The challenger usually leaves the field worn out, if nothing less, because of what I now — after long observation and personal participation — consider to be some of the hallmarks of M's jousting style (in no particular order):

• She will tell you that there is abundant research in support of what she says, but hasn't the time to go look for it — but you can if you wish
• She buries you under a continent of multisyllabic bloviation from which just digging out is exhausting (the size of many her posts discourages all but the most intrepid)
• She tells you that she's exasperated by your deliberate misinterpretation of what she says
• If you come back at her with substantial researchable refutation of what she says, she simply ignores it
• She often ignores direct questions which call for no more than a simple yes or no
• She often angers people with her style which when it implies that her view is by its inherent nature inherently superior to yours, in that haud ignota loquor manner
• She speaks as if her conjecture and opinions are obvious fact
• She often brings in tangential matter having little to do with the main topic
• She will sometimes use dramatic but inappropriate comparisons, metaphors and similes
• If her opponent insists upon calling her hand, or simply just standing up to her, she may often threaten to cut off discussion because obviously her opponent is deliberately not understanding her just to be ornery
• She has threatened countless times to leave a given thread in high dudgeon and indignation, only to come back again (which of course is her right), sometimes saying that she simply must come back to straighten a few things out
• Once an opponent "cries uncle," she seems to feel that she is again the unassailable "winner," her views again proven supreme (at least to her)
• She seems to believe that Rush Limbaugh is a minor prophet

CAVEAT EMPTOR :D

Barley
 
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