Who's authority?

Discussion in 'Theology' started by wil, Dec 16, 2008.

  1. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    That's the issue. Why is an exponent of Christendom considered an authority on Christianity? A Catholic authority on Catholicism is one thing but his opinion cannot be assumed an authority on Christianity. The power trip that the Roman church was on was instrumental in speeding up the descent of Christianity into Christendom.

    But I know that an authority on Catholicism will be considered an authority on Christianity which is as short sighted as Chief Red Clould being considered an authority on Reform Judaism.

    There are numerous warnings in the Bible concerning these false Prophets who are authorities on self deception. I see no reason to accept "experts" because they are popular and contribute to spirit killing by distorting Christianity. Just look at some of these warnings about false prophets. But we are to have blind faith that they somehow represent Christianity.. Hopefully, not everyone is this gullible.

    False prophet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  2. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    I used medieval Islam as an example because it's far removed from Chief Seattle. There might be other texts that are relevant. It sounds like the question you're dancing around is:

    Are critical and comparative texts from outside of religious traditions allowed or are we limited to what is considered cannon within different orthodoxies?

    That's a question Thomas would have to answer.
     
  3. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    The "whole question of 'authority on G!d'" seems to me the crux of the matter, though. Is it really moot?

    Philosophically it is easy to blurt out "yes." And then when one is deep in the throes of enshrining St. Thomas Aquinas, sight is quickly lost that he was "only" speaking for Catholics, and it can easily escalate into "Church father loved and endeared by many" (as if that has anything to do with "expert") and elevated to sainthood by Pope Infallible the 52nd (as if that has anything to do with "authority") and having written 167 theses on the proper way to lead a clean life (as if that has much to do with spirituality). I am being a bit facetious, and I hope brazenly enough that I am not taken literally, but I *am* trying to make the point. Thomas Aquinas, as much as I admire his work and efforts, is no more authority to be respected than Black Elk. Stated another way...if provenance and immersion in subject matter, along with semi-universal recognition among their followers as to expertise, then Black Elk is statistically as qualified as Aquinas. If based on percentage of followers, perhaps more so.

    Yet there is a difference. There are those in Catholism (I say this as no slight) that deify Aquinas and turn him effectively into a little god, whereas in the Native American tradition that would not ever happen. Black Elk, respected spiritual leader that he is, will not ever attain the status of "saint" because such deification of spiritual leaders is foreign and contrary to Native American tradition. So what if St. Thomas is a saint? It confers no more element of "authority" on him beyond the political.

    What concerns me is that the discussions will become limited to Catholic "authorities," maybe the inclusion of one or two Protestant "authorities" to argue against and make the Catholics come out smelling like roses, and everybody else is damned anyway so how can they possibly be authorities? I truly hope my concerns are unfounded.
     
  4. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    I would like to add, since I remember it being brought up in the past, that the difference between this and the Parsha project is that *all* other views were openly invited to contribute at the Parsha project. I really liked the format, and I'm sorry it didn't do any better than it did.

    While I hope I understand the scholarship approach that is trying to be generated here, it is beginning to appear that my concerns about selective inclusion are not entirely unfounded, and in my view that would be tragic.

    Make no mistake, I admire *our* Thomas, I have been a long time advocate behind the scenes to see him at least offered the opportunity to become a mod...and I think he will do fine in that regard. But for my part this entire forum has always been about inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance. The *only* caveat I have ever insisted on is civility. But civility shouldn't be the mask to cover intolerance and exclusion...that would be contrary to what an InterFaith dialogue is all about.
     
  5. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    It sounds like you're concerned that, with Thomas being Catholic and the moderator of this particular type of board, that Catholic perspectives will through more strongly. I think one of the issues that arises is that there are only so many people on this forum who can engage in discussion on the level that this board looks to take things, and of those, only so many are regular posters.

    My personal hope is that, given time, things will level out and this area of the forum, hopefully, will attract more people from different backgrounds who can cite text-for-text from their respective backgrounds. It's also possible that won't happen just as, if you look at the new posts on any given day, the majority are either in the Christianity section of the forum or concerned with Christian questions.

    I found the interfaith parsha project both rewarding and frustrating, and my only real frustration was that people were often looking for more answers from authority, less openness. I think going in either direction, there will be people looking for something else. For me, I really enjoyed the posts that path_of_one did that were based in her own academic background. I hope we'll see more at that caliber, from different people, here.

    -- Dauer
     
  6. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    The predominant problem I see is time. Not everyone here has the time to write posts as lengthy as those by AndrewX. I suspect that is why we don't see more of Kim's writing...it takes time to look up and cross reference and make something coherent. I have spent as much as 8 hours on one post in the past trying to get it "right." I don't have that luxury anymore. I shouldn't be on here now.

    But we'll see.
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi guys —

    I am painfully aware that my Catholicity will always mitigate against me being an impartial moderator — I rely on my fellow mods to point out when they think I'm over-stepping the mark — however as someone engaged in 'higher education' (in a purely secular sense, not spirituality!) I am sufficiently au fait with standard practice of informed debate to function as a mod on this Board.

    A point that is very significant, it seems to me, is the dearth of contributors from 'orthodox' religious doctrines on the IO Board. By far and away the most contribution is from those banging their own drum, as it were, and their anger and acrimony that abounds when a personal dogma is not universally welcomed without question is enough to tell many genuine scholars that this is not the place for them.

    The point that is overlooked is that 'orthodoxy' of any ilk or calling, as I have made Brian aware, is not welcome here. The only ones who stay are those who are prepared to 'slug it out' as it were.

    For the rest, they are not made welcome, and see no reason to stay.

    I happen to know, for example, a Coptic theologian who could bring some insight and testing questions to Catholic doctrine, but I would not ask him here.

    I hope that the Theology Board might at least be an island that might attract some 'scholars' who are as interested in the opinion of others as they are in their own, and generally attract those who have an honest desire to understand what doctrines say, or why people hold them.

    Thomas
     
  8. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    what renders someone authoritative is they can argue their point reasonably and rationally. Aquinas is not an 'authority' because he is a saint or a Catholic, but because he is an exemplar of the Aristotelian model of debate that underpins Western Philosophy and is regarded as a benchmark in secular circles on that very point.

    Aquinas' own 'authorities' were Aristotle, Avicenna, Averroes as well as his Catholic predecessors.

    The point is, if you want to ask a question of why Catholics think 'X', you can't do better than ask Aquinas, in the same way that if you want to know why the Native American thought 'X', don't ask Aquinas, as Black Elk, or whoever.

    Imagine you were on trial for your beliefs, and you are seeking a defence lawyer. D'you ask the bloke down the pub, who's got an opinion on everything, or do you ask someone who is experienced in the Law?

    Same here. if you want to know about Catholic Spirituality, or Native American Spirituality, or Shamanic Spirituality ... seek put someone who knows what they're talking about, avoid the bloke down the pub — just cos he shouts down all opposition, and has an opinion on everything, that doesn't make him an expert.

    I'm trying to remember the name of one of the foremost authorities on Aquinas — he was mentioned at a lecture — because he's an athiest. When asked, apparently he said, "I think no-one argues a point better that Aquinas, but I just don't have is faith."

    No, I think they are founded, but misdirected.

    It's not my point to come out smelling like roses, it's my point to argue that what I believe is reasonable and logical. If anyone says that Catholicism is wrong in what it believes, that's unreasonable and illogical.

    Doesn't mean everyone or anyone else is damned, or that they are not authorities for their own calling.

    Thomas
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I would love to discuss Schuon, Guenon (both Sufis) ... I have the latter's complete works as part of my reference library.

    Guenon's comparison of the Six Days in Genesis and the Hindu creation myth is just one of the many passages I read purely for pleasure.

    But if you're asking about the Catholic Doctrine of this or that ... then an explanation from 'outside' will probably not carry as much weight or depth as one from within.

    In the same way, when asking about Australian Aboriginal myth, I'd rather read the words of an Australian Aboriginal who is a recognised voice of his people by his own people than, say, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung or Jacob Needleman, no matter how much i might like their books or their philosophy.

    The same as when I wanted to learn martial arts, I looked for a Japanese teacher in ther first instance.

    Thomas
     
  10. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    Thomas wrote

    Well that clears it up. Jesus could not be an authority on Christianity since he taught in local taverns, didn't attend Harvard, and didn't argue with people.

    A real authority on God is one who has the style necessary to create an image of self importnce that compensates for the lack of substance. Now I understand.
     
  11. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    OK, thank you for the clarification.

    I suppose where I lost track was in thinking that spiritual endeavors are a universal pursuit of humans around the globe. Black Elk isn't the guy down at the pub. However, he doesn't use Aristotlean logic either, despite being a highly respected spiritual leader. So...

    Hate to say it, but hamstringing to such a narrow purview is really going to narrow the audience.

    I guess the irony for me is in having just had this discussion with the atheist...

    http://www.interfaith.org/forum/ethical-atheist-vs-believer-in-10289-15.html#post176539

    I concede, it is yours to do with as you will...
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2009
  12. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Is this what you were alluding to?

    There are many warnings from many spiritual leaders regarding this:
    Matthew 7
    1 Corinthians 1
    Kalama Sutta
    And one of my favorites in this regard:
    Tao Te Ching 38

    You can argue theory with flowery speech all day long, but that does not mean that you will connect with reality. Don't allow yourself to become so distracted by the flower that you ignore the fruit. The blossom drops off before the fruit forms...(see also 1 Corinthians 12-13)
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Juantoo —

    I still think we're not gelling. Black Elk is a highly respected spiritual leader — in terms of Native American Spirituality, not in terms of Catholic Spirituality.

    As such he has a great insight to offer humanity generally, and indeed specifically — I should imagine it would be hard to listen attentively to such a voice and not benefit in heart, mind and spirit.

    But if you want to understand something about North American Spirituality, ask Black Elk, not Aquinas, nor Aristotle. If you want to understand something generally about human nature, ask all three, and see where they coincide, and where the differ, and then ask why.

    But neither of those three will say the other two are 'wrong' — and nor does theology, but that's just what IO does.

    I have told this before, but I read one account of a Japanese man who became a Catholic Priest. He went home to Japan and visited the venerable master of his secondary school, from what I gather a rather elite Buddhist school. His master knew next to nothing of Christianity (this was a long, long time ago).

    In discussion, the priest recited that Sermon on the Mount. "That's it!" said the old Buddhist, "that's the message I've been preaching all my life. Whoever said that was truly an illumined man!" (or words to that effect).

    I'll go so far to say that generally, here on IO, there are a few who are not bothered to inquire into the Sermon, or indeed anything else, to the depth that either a Catholic or Buddhist commentary might bring to the text, rather the concern is that their opinion is received as equally valid, if not more meaningful, because it's 'theirs', and because they are illumined.

    Thomas
     
  14. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    As always, Seattlegal, you have your own way of driving the point home. Yes, this is the essence of what I am trying to say.
     
  15. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    That is always a possibility, I am only human.

    This is more along the lines of what I thought your original intent for this board was.

    Hence, my confusion if particular threads are to be limited. I fully realize someone like Black Elk may not have anything to say to add to, oh, the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. However, you may not be aware that there are some coincidental similarities between Native American and Christian traditions regarding the trinity, and even the four archangels. Not identicality, but similarities that I have long found striking. I had hoped this board be fluid enough to allow for such *friendly* comparisons, but those comparisons will not be possible if things are limited to what amounts to direct cause and effect, or perhaps doctrinal heritage. If a study in a matter of Catholic doctrine is limited to the Pagan (Aristotle) precedent and Islamic aftermath (Averroes), with the condition of Greek logic; then there is no way because of the limitations to interject such a profound (IMO) spiritual connection that has no connection whatsoever to do with logic or heritage.

    I understand you don't want this to be just more of the same schlep going on at the other boards, and I appreciate you want it narrowed to the voices of those recognized in their specific roles as spiritual leaders, and thereby limit the input of opinion from the contributors. I get that. But I can also see where if the board is going to be limited to a pat-on-the-back club, then there is no real difference in sounding the triumphal horn than that done by the atheist / quasi-scientist bunch that do the same darn thing.
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I see it as quite the opposite.

    Exactly. These kinds of doctrine are refuted on IO, based on the personal incredulity of the individual, or sentimentality. However, that something might appear as preposterous to someone is not proof that it is not the case. That someone thinks everyone has the right to everything without effort, I find preposterous.

    I am not aware of them, and would be delighted to know them! This kind of thing is theology.

    It depends where you want to go ... broad, or deep. Both are perfectly acceptable, and invited, but they are different. I started the Board on the hope to go deep into doctrines which are only superficially understood. But that's me.

    I'm all for true 'Comparative Religion' ... but I would say that whilst comparing similarities, here we can discuss differences in an equally friendly manner.

    But I do reserve the right, if someone says "North American Spirituality is 'X'", then they can show that as something more than their own opinion or bias, or else we're back to a discussion at the level of the bloke down the pub.

    Thomas
     
  17. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Thank you. :)
     
  18. Janz

    Janz What's Amatta U

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    Now I see. Well I guess I will take my inferior intellect and leave this part of the board alone. I much prefer discussion with those blokes at the pub any day. Now if only I can convince some of my more logical friends who are trained in Protestant Apologetics to post here there would be a more balanced *debate*. However when I last checked, they were too busy walking the talk as well.
     
  19. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Jamarz —

    Theology is not about intellect, it's about sources for claims made. The Theology Board is not about what 'I' believe, but what is believed, or rather the evidence of why I believe it.

    Theology as a science is the examination of evidence. Where that evidence is faulty or erroneous, it is the nature of theology to reveal it.

    I look forward to it. One of my primary source references for Pauline studies is the Protestant apologete N.T. Wright. On Scripture generally another, C.H. Dodd. I rather suspect however, that like most theologians I know, they walk what they talk among those who are open to balanced, reasonable, logical debate, and don't put themselves up for ad hominem attacks intended to cover the lack of any evidence to support claims made.

    Thomas
     
  20. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    As far as I've seen there has been no squelching of voices on this board over which sources of scholarly authority people have chosen to use.

    I'd say "Come and see," rather than fighting demons that are not manifest.

    No sense in killing the experiment still-born. Why not participate and be part of what it becomes?
     

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