What To Make Of The Old Testament

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,379
Reaction score
2,625
Points
108
Hi Lux –
Does it make a difference if I knew what really happened at Mt. Sinai (how the ten commandments were given) - Why, yes.
Here's a couple of thoughts.

As said above, I believe in the 'events' recorded in the Bible because of the way I perceive what it is to be a symbol (as opposed to a sign).

According to the text, Moses goes up the mountain, and comes down with two tablets of stone, written on by the finger of God. We know, as Moses knew, God doesn't have fingers, so here we're talking about a figure of speech.

When the people fall into idolatry, Moses gets cross and breaks the tablets. Really? You mean God gave Moses two stone tablets, and Moses broke them? I don't think so. I wouldn't do that with a gift from God. I might do the angry 'that's the last you'll see of these you ungrateful bast ...!" that kind of thing, but break something given to me by God because I was angry with my neighbour ... no.

The phrase 'written in stone' has entered our language to mean an insoluble contract. You can, as they also say, 'take it to the bank'. It was not sketched out on the back of an envelope, nor written in parchment nor a wax tablet, because those forms are ephemeral. The idea of being written on stone is that it's permanent. Eternal.

Moses breaks the stones, to signify the contract has been broken – not by God, but by the people.

Later God renews the contract: "And after this he said: Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the former, and I will write upon them the words which were in the tables, which thou brokest" (Exodus 34:1) So Moses cut the stones, not God, and Moses took the stones up the mountain (34:4).

Then Moses talks to God, and after the formalities, God renews the covenant, and at the end of His discourse: "And the Lord said to Moses: Write these words by which I have made a covenant both with thee and with Israel" (34:27).

So I would say that Moses cut the stones and had inscribed upon them the seal of the contract between God and Israel. In effect, the signature of both parties, as a contract is worth nothing until it is signed and witnessed.

The discourse between God and Moses takes up whole chapters – 19-34 – too much, I would say, to inscribe on two stones that a man could carry.

So what am I saying?

I believe there were two stones, inscribed accordingly, to signify the contract. The stones are, in effect, the 'seal' affirming the deal. But that's my take on symbols. My faith doesn't depend on two tablets of stone.

My faith doesn't even depend on the Ten Commandments. The evidence is that other contemporary cultures came up with much the same lists.

My faith is in the God presented in Scripture.

And the understanding and the commentary of the Traditions that hold those Scriptures to be sacred. That explain not what is said, but how it is to be read. In His discourse God declares that he is 'wrathful' and 'jealous' and will have 'vengeance'; that He has 'fingers' and 'hind parts' ... but it's also axiomatic that God is beyond all forms, and definitely not a man or any other creature ...

When man writes or speaks, then it's in human terms, expressed as best he can, but it is not 'God's word' in the absolute literal sense. God did not dictate the terms of the covenant, He revealed them to man through the process of indwelling, revelation, inspiration, intuition.

And, of course, man takes this revelation and 'fleshes it out' and therein lies the point where the celestial rubber, to coin a phrase, meets the human road. Where cultural practice 'clothes' the message.

It can't be any other way. It's language, a human construct, and the words are human words. I don't think there's one word in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the New Testament or in the Quran that God 'invented' and man had never heard of before. So what God reveals is clothed in the language is common to humanity – and inevitably suffers for it. It can only ever fall short.

The Jews teach that God said the first vowel, and that everything was contained in that. Because of man's incomprehension, another vowel followed to explain the first; then a second word to explain the first, then a second sentence, paragraph, chapter, book ... but there's nothing in the totality of Scripture that is not contained in that first vowel.

The Hindus speak of 'Aum' as the Primordial Word of God. The same concept. Everything flows from that.

But back to the dialogue. The people come to Sinai, Moses goes up the mountain, and while his back's turned, the people get up to their old mischiefs. Moses throws his toys out the pram; God becomes incandescent; Moses pleads for forgiveness; God relents, and re-institutes the contract the people broke, this time tougher than before ... this is all very human, isn't it.

But the point is not how naughty Israel is, but that God forgives.

A dad and his son are walking along the cliffs at the seaside. The son rushes towards the edge of the cliff. "Don't do that," dad says. "Why?" "Because you might fall off." "I won't." "You might" "No I won't" and he rushes to the cliff edge again. This conversation repeats itself three times. Eventually dad says "If you go near the cliff edge again, I will punish you." Same thing, really. Sometimes you need a tangible 'threat' because we're too wilful to pay any heed to the abstract – but very real – risks.

If you keep the over-arching shape of the dialogue in mind, then the troublesome instances can be resolved, without recourse to sophistry or magic!

Another thing. Exodus speaks of "And the glory of the Lord dwelt upon Sinai, covering it with a cloud six days: and the seventh day he called him out of the midst of the cloud" (24:16). Moses went up the mountain and was there for forty days and forty nights (24:18, 34:28).

The language references creation, the flood, prefigures the wandering in the desert, Our Lord's fasting in the wilderness ... but it's not simply a literary trope, it's pointing to a deeper understanding of what's happening.
 

Devils' Advocate

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,086
Reaction score
381
Points
83
Location
In this so called Reality. Well, most of the time.
Lux, the issues you are facing don't have factual answers. When you said earlier 'please tell me God didn't say those things' and someone replied 'he did not' - the latter is a statement of fact that can in no way be substantiated. It is his belief that God did not say those words.

When we talk of Gods, all we have are beliefs. People can be very creative in coming up with alternate explanations for some passages that upset our modern sensibilities. If those explanations help you be more comfortable with what is written, no harm in that (usually!).

It is great to get other people's interpretations, and to explore them. In the end though, you are on your own. What you choose to accept is on you. Bummer. But there it is.
 

Lux

Well-Known Member
Messages
319
Reaction score
92
Points
28
I was glad when Thomas said God didn't say those things because it helps clearing my prejudice against believers that they're all brainwashed(for lack of a better word) to believe the bible's stories as they are. There are many believers who question their scriptures (their authority) quite a bit but still stay with the belief in God. I'm feeling, maybe they know something I don't know ... what would that be ... ?

I am not going to rely on one person's beliefs to form my beliefs, but surely hearing from people who studied the subject well is a great way to expand my knowledge. Without knowledge, one can't make an informed decision.

Of course what I choose to accept is all on me. Bummer? NOOOO, it's free will at its finest!
 
Last edited:

LincolnSpector

Well-Known Member
Messages
109
Reaction score
1
Points
18
Why this assumption that the only choice is between unbelief and an Abrahamic religion? People believed in God long before the Bible existed.

As for the good, culture, and civilisation, they are surely outweighed by the bigotry, persecutions, and killings inspired by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam over the centuries. Anyone who says "God has spoken to me and what I say is the truth" is implying "and the rest of you are deluded liars". How can such an attitude not have sorry consequences?

It's not just the Abrahamic religions. Other religions, and secular philosophies such as Communism, have been just as bad.

The important thing is to accept that your view isn't the only one, and be tolerant of others. And you can do that within an Abrahamic tradition.
 

LincolnSpector

Well-Known Member
Messages
109
Reaction score
1
Points
18
How is Genesis compatible with evolution theory ? Were we homo sapiens from the very beginning (Adam and Eve), or did we evolve from apes?

They don't have to be compatible because they're entire different things. It's comparing apples and orangutans.

We don't know all the details about evolution through natural selection, but we know enough to be absolutely certain that it happened and continues to happen. It's a fact. Period.

Genesis is a collection of folktales, and appears to be two different books by two different authors, weaved together into a sort of singular narrative. Chapters 1 & 2 provide separate, conflicting accounts of creation.

That strikes me as absolute proof that the people who weaved those stories together never meant it to be taken literally in the way we think of history or science today.
 

Lux

Well-Known Member
Messages
319
Reaction score
92
Points
28
They don't have to be compatible because they're entire different things. It's comparing apples and orangutans.

We don't know all the details about evolution through natural selection, but we know enough to be absolutely certain that it happened and continues to happen. It's a fact. Period.

Genesis is a collection of folktales, and appears to be two different books by two different authors, weaved together into a sort of singular narrative. Chapters 1 & 2 provide separate, conflicting accounts of creation.

That strikes me as absolute proof that the people who weaved those stories together never meant it to be taken literally in the way we think of history or science today.

You and I share about the same view on Genesis; that it's a collection of fables. My post you quoted is asking greentwiga about what he said in post#18. He seems to have a different interpretation of Genesis. Thomas also said Genesis is compatible with evolution theory in post#34, but he's saying it in a deep spiritual sense, I suppose.
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,379
Reaction score
2,625
Points
108
Thomas also said Genesis is compatible with evolution theory in post#34, but he's saying it in a deep spiritual sense, I suppose.
Well evolution does say that man was formed from 'the slime of the earth' just like Genesis says :D

But again, Genesis isn't science, it's metaphysics and morality.

There's an interesting new theory on evolution in New Scientist this week. Doesn't alter the basics, just sheds some new light on how to look at the process ...

There's also some 'deep' Catholic scholarship which sees not a Primordial Couple, but rather a Primordial Community ... and also pegs the 'moment' to when there seems to be the sudden emergence of signs of reflective intelligence among the early hominids – tools, art, etc.

As for text readings, we regard Genesis 1-11 as myth, then from Abram on as oral tradition, with myth and fable folded in around a probably reality ... wherever the Jews came from, someone started it, so that seems reasonable and logical?

Until recently Wellhausen's 'Documentary Hypothesis' ruled the roost, which posed four strata of materials in the Pentateuch – the Jawhist and Elohist materials collated by the Deuteronomist and edited by the Priestly scribe. This held sway for most of the 20th century.

Consensus has evaporated in recent years, and now we have any number of permutations.
 

wil

UNeyeR1
Moderator
Messages
22,798
Reaction score
2,505
Points
108
Location
a figment of your imagination
There's also some 'deep' Catholic scholarship which sees not a Primordial Couple, but rather a Primordial Community ... and also pegs the 'moment' to when there seems to be the sudden emergence of signs of reflective intelligence among the early hominids – tools, art, etc. .

please expound...
 

Lux

Well-Known Member
Messages
319
Reaction score
92
Points
28
Thomas, thank you again for your replies with such substance. My! Is that what you get from a Catholic Sunday school? Instead of being read picture books about miracles?! hee-hee... Did you go to a divinity school or something?

You gave me a fresh perspective that'd help me see the old testament in a new light. My leisure time is limited now, so I can only respond to some parts out of many thought-provoking arguments you laid out. I'll try to revisit the rest when I can find time tho.

Well the first thing I would say is be careful not to read history from a contemporary sensibility, the events were discussing occurred about 4,000 years ago.

This is an archetypical story: a king, two queens, two contenders for the throne. From the perspective of the times, the solution is easy. Machiavelli would have laughed at Abraham sending Hagar and Ishmael away. As soon as Isaac came along, Abraham should have killed them both. Leaving them alive is a recipe for disaster!

The history of the royal dynasties of Europe plays out this story, and variations of it, over and over again with tiresome regularity. In England we have the great houses: Wessex, Norman, Angevin, Plantagenet, Lancaster, York, Tudor ... the names change, but the story stays the same.

What I would say is don't expect too much of the people – the Jewish scribes were certainly not inclined to whitewash their history – but keep your focus on how they see God and how God deals with them.

It seems to me that even if we assume an agnostic position, if one reads the History of the Jews with a open to ideas, then the Jewish idea of God is in a completely different, and dare I say transcendent, league compared to contemporary ideas of the peoples of that region in that era of history.

That's a good point. I didn't see it that way before. Right... the Israelites are probably the first ones to picture God as a parent figure... That is quite a departure from Gods that behave just like humans, and create a grand-scale soap opera.

Instead of fearing Gods for capriciously venting their moods or creating mischief on earth, the Israelites started to 'admire' God as supreme righteousness of sort, and believed that God wants them to live in a certain way (morals) and is supervising how they behave ... This is I have to say, a remarkable 'breakthrough'.

Then they began to seriously contemplate "How does God want us to behave?" ... then the moral codes started to develop gradually - with quite a lot of stumbling, often still being swayed by the old primitive ways (tyrannical, clannish, even barbaric) - and yet steadily embarked on the road to 'spiritual' evolution. They didn't just fear God; they loved and trusted God. Just to name one, Psalm 23 (it became my personal favorite) beautifully crystallizes that notion.

I'm beginning to be able to see the old testament differently. It is like when we see a picture of a flower painted by a three-year old. We wouldn't focus on its faults (the number of the petals is wrong, the shape or color is off, etc.), but we'd be amazed that so young a child captured a basic image of the flower and we can tell it's a flower. We'd frame it and hang it on the wall ... We shouldn't be looking for faults in the picture of God the ancient Israelis painted albeit how poorly - which is what many disbelievers do; I was one of them -, but for an idea they brilliantly grasped that God wishes to have a relationship with us. ... "I am your God, you are my people." ... You're right, Thomas, deists are missing the best part of who God is, if I may say so. - God walks with us.

There were many philosophers who believed that Plato must have read Moses (the Pentateuch) and that many of his ideas of a transcendent and all-encompassing monotheistic deity derived from his exposure to the Jewish religion when he travelled in Egypt.

I'm not saying he did, but what I am pointing out is two 'ways' of interpreting the world, a 'philosophical' way and a 'mythopoeic' way – the Hellenic and the Hebrew, and that there are significant correspondences between the two once you get passed Hellenic polytheism and certain contemporary notions about 'literalism'. The distinction then is dualism, Hellenic thinking tends to dualism, and still largely 'infects' Christian thinking. Hebrew thinking tends to holism.

whoa, in English please ... You're going too academic for me. You know, I began to see that theologies and philosophies are closely connected deep down. That's when I noticed intelligent religious folks - clearly you're one of them - are not the same as the people who just seek comfort in their beliefs (nothing wrong with that tho). But my gosh, if I have to comprehend all philosophies and theologies to find God then the odds are against me ... So, let me quote my pet bible verse ... "God shows no partiality ... for God is kind to the [ungrateful] not-so-smart, and the [evil] dumb ..." :D

By the way... Did Plato believe in a God? - if not the Abrahamic kind, some other kind of deity ... ?


In essence I agree. In substance perhaps, we might differ.

To tackle the easy bit first: The history of the Jews tags certain events to certain places. Moses saw the burning bush on Mount Horeb. He received the commandments on Mount Sinai. I have no reason to not believe that the Jews were somewhere when these doctrines were formulated. But that's not your argument, I know that.

I have no objection to believing those are actual places the Israelites lived - but some say Horeb and Sinai are different locations, but some others, the same location with different names ... I'm a little confused about that, but it's not a big concern of mine - I think the Israelites had a genuine intention of passing on their history(actual events), but it got embellished quite a bit, and errors occurred too, along the way.

The burning bush ... Hope you'd understand how difficult for a former disbeliever to comprehend paranormal events like that. But I'm not saying it can't ever happen. I have a friend who swears he saw his late grandfather sitting next to him and smiling at him. He insists it was not a dream. He's not a believer of any religion but now he believes in souls and some kind of afterlife. I've known him since the 7th grade, and have no reason to doubt his sanity or character.

... Do you believe the burning bush to be a metaphor, or it was a divinely inspired vision, or it actually happened? I mean, the bush was really, literally on fire, but wasn't burnt?

God 'speaks' in human language but God is not just the God of man, He is the God of the Cosmos and he speaks through mind and He speaks through nature.

When you say God 'speaks' in human language, do you mean we hear actual voices in our heads? (Which means we can repeat what we heard, word for word, if the sentence was short enough.) When God speaks to us, is it more than being given, often suddenly, 'a strong sense' that "I should do this or that, or go to a certain place, or call on someone particular, etc " ... ? Well it's written in the bible that Jesus Christ spoke to Saul - "Why are you persecuting me?" ... Do you believe those were the exact words Jesus said to Saul? (in Hebrew or Greek of course)
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,379
Reaction score
2,625
Points
108
My! Is that what you get from a Catholic Sunday school?
No. Nor from a Catholic secondary school education, either... :mad:

Did you go to a divinity school or something?
In my 50s I did a BA Divinity which is a degree in Catholic theology, and was lucky enough to be pointed to a college that was both thoroughly orthodox and yet was constantly 'pushing the envelope'.

My background might help explain things: Cradle Catholic, wandered off in my late teens, got into a pseudo-esoteric cult for about 10 years which tickled my interest in Hermeticism, saw through that eventually (the founder was living in a multi-million dollar mansion in Miami by then), wandered off again and stumbled across the writings of the Traditionalists and the 'philosophia perennis' which triggered my 'Damascus moment' and something of an epiphany. Discovered the 'Patristic Fathers' – Christian philosophers of the first centuries of Christianity – and found a language that lit up my soul...

... which brought me round to Catholicism again. So I thought I'd do a degree to get to grips with what it is we're supposed to believe. To sum up I would define myself as a Christian Neoplatonist.

... Israelites started to 'admire' God as supreme righteousness of sort, and believed that God wants them to live in a certain way (morals) and is supervising how they behave ... This is I have to say, a remarkable 'breakthrough'
In so many ways ... take the Flood, which figures in Genesis and also in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. In the Biblical version, Noah builds an altar and offers sacrifice to God. In the Epic, Utnapishtim builds an altar and offers sacrifice and the gods, who were starving because mankind supplied their food (which they had forgotten when they decided to wipe out man for making too much noise), descended like a cloud of flies and there was something of a riot at the feast) ... suffice to say, there's precious little moral guidance in the Epic, and very human gods ...

I'm beginning to be able to see the old testament differently. It is like when we see a picture of a flower painted by a three-year old...
Nice analogy. We could run it round again and say we are the three year old, and the picture was painted by someone like Van Gogh ... how can a three year old comprehend, let alone appreciate, such insight?

You're right, Thomas, deists are missing the best part of who God is, if I may say so. - God walks with us.
In my cult days, I used to teach 'we stand right next to God, but we've got our back to Him, and we're looking the wrong bloody way!' But then my partner, who I met there (and we're the only couple to my knowledge who remained together subsequently) used to say I'm more Catholic than I know, and more Buddhist than I care to admit! And she's an atheist! It's right what they say about ladies and multi-tasking ... :eek: :D

God is always here, but always on the horizon ...

The more I know God, the more I know I don't.

A famous philosopher said to know something you have to be able to make a tour of it. We can't do that with God, He's always over the horizon. But that's where the human really lives – on the horizon. On the edge. There's a story about a theologian walking on the beach, trying to understand the Holy Trinity. (Or Scripture.) He meets a child, carrying a bucket of water from the sea, and pouring it into a hole in the sand. "You muppet," the theologian laughs, "you'll never empty the oceans into that hole." "You're the numpty," the child says. "I'll empty the all the oceans long before you figure out the Trinity."

I happen to think that although we have surrounded ourselves with clever tech, the assumption that we are more advanced as humans than our forebears is, I would suggest, a naive self-deception. Do we have the intellectual capacity of Plato or Aristotle? I think not. Euclid and Pythagoras? Nope. Do we write better love poetry than Sappho? Nope. Do we know what it is to be human any better than they? Not on the evidence, it would seem.

So when I read Scripture, I approach it from the standpoint that the sacred scribe might actually be, not just my intellectual equal, but way better, with a subtlety of insight and understanding that's over my horizon. Not to mention Divine Inspiration ... that what's contained in Scripture might actually have something profoundly relevant to say at the level of my being.

Forensic investigations into the texts have their place, but it's a very distant second. And too often, forensic inquiry means putting the butterfly in a killing jar. You'll never appreciate what it is to be a butterfly by looking at a dead thing.

Really it's all part of the western mindset. That to be 'true' it has to be empirically demonstrable. You have to be able to pin it down.

You know, I began to see that theologies and philosophies are closely connected deep down.
They were the same thing, until the 17th century, when the 'Enlightenment' happened, man discovered science and believed he had the means to tame nature – always the wayward woman – and shape the world in his own image.

In the West it's said Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion – whereas in the East, a Buddhist would say I don't observe those distinctions.

What really winds me up is the assumption that religion has no philosophy, or that its philosophy is out-dated. That's such a silly assumption.

But my gosh, if I have to comprehend all philosophies and theologies to find God then the odds are against me ...
Can't be done. You can know a great deal superficially about many things, or you can focus in depth on the one thing. It's there in the parable of Martha and Mary. What one can find is as one delves deeper into one, then there are cross-strata into others ... but you can't study them all.

Serving two masters, sitting on the fence, riding two horses ... the wisdom of the world is quite clear on that, but again, because in the west faith is more focussed on scientism than the sublime, on quantity rather than quality ...

I like your Bible verse!

By the way... Did Plato believe in a God? - if not the Abrahamic kind, some other kind of deity ... ?
Oh, killer question!

The first point is God with a capital G doesn't exist for Plato. God is not the name of a person, but a common noun. Thus Plato speaks of "the gods (hoi theoi), or "the god (ho theos)" in a generic sense. He also speaks of "the divine (to theion)" – but not in any Abrahamic, personal sense.

Interestingly, because Plato spoke in abstract terms, the Patristic Fathers, who were all (with the very rare exception) Platonist philosophers, saw no impediment marrying his ideas with the idea of God found in Scripture. The trick, as is ever the case, is to Christianise Platonism (we say 'baptise Plato'), rather than Platonise Christianity ... the latter is where some theologians went wrong. The Arian Dispute, which tore the Christian world apart, was a result of making Scripture fit a Platonic model. Origen, one of our greatest theologians, tended sometimes to be too much Plato's man ... but some of our brightest and best are 'Christian Platonists' – Augustine was, so was Aquinas, but they were not dualists, as the Hellenics were, Scripture is an holistic vision, not a dualist one.

I think the Israelites had a genuine intention of passing on their history (actual events), but it got embellished quite a bit, and errors occurred too, along the way.
I agree.

... Do you believe the burning bush to be a metaphor, or it was a divinely inspired vision, or it actually happened? I mean, the bush was really, literally on fire, but wasn't burnt?
Well here I am a symbolist. So yes, I do believe the burning bush is a metaphor, but I also believe it's an actualised metaphor, there was actually something that Moses saw, and the only way he could describe it was like a burning bush. But it was physically there.

In John's Gospel (21), it tells of Peter fishing, to no result. Our Lord appears and says cast your net there. Peter does, and nets 'one hundred and fifty three fish' (v11). That number is steeped in Hebrew gematria and cross-references with Hellenic mythology, that's the point John is making, all that good stuff ... so people say Peter never actually went fishing, it's a metaphor ... but I say Peter did go fishing, and if you counted the fish in the net, there would be a hundred and fifty three. Exactly. The metaphor is actualised. God is the God of 'this' world, where the metaphor starts, as well as that place where the metaphor points.

When you say God 'speaks' in human language, do you mean we hear actual voices in our heads? (Which means we can repeat what we heard, word for word, if the sentence was short enough.) When God speaks to us, is it more than being given, often suddenly, 'a strong sense' that "I should do this or that, or go to a certain place, or call on someone particular, etc " ... ? Well it's written in the bible that Jesus Christ spoke to Saul - "Why are you persecuting me?" ... Do you believe those were the exact words Jesus said to Saul? (in Hebrew or Greek of course)
The latter. A strong sense, sometimes it can be put into words, sometimes it can't. But for Saul, it was put into words. So strong for him, as far as he is concerned, he heard the words. Not just a sense, a realisation, and it rocked his world.

It opened up a new horizon.
 

Lux

Well-Known Member
Messages
319
Reaction score
92
Points
28
No. Nor from a Catholic secondary school education, either... :mad:
No? ... dang! I was thinking of sending my nephew to Sunday school of a nearby Catholic church with a recording device. :D

My background might help explain things: Cradle Catholic, wandered off in my late teens, got into a pseudo-esoteric cult for about 10 years which tickled my interest in Hermeticism, saw through that eventually (the founder was living in a multi-million dollar mansion in Miami by then), wandered off again and stumbled across the writings of the Traditionalists and the 'philosophia perennis' which triggered my 'Damascus moment' and something of an epiphany. Discovered the 'Patristic Fathers' – Christian philosophers of the first centuries of Christianity – and found a language that lit up my soul...

... which brought me round to Catholicism again. So I thought I'd do a degree to get to grips with what it is we're supposed to believe. To sum up I would define myself as a Christian Neoplatonist.
Thank you for sharing your background and how you've traveled spiritually ... It seems you've found answers on your own, not just followed your church or your pastors ... People like you are the folk I'm interested in learning from.

Is 'philosophia perennis' the same as 'prisca theologia'... ?
I still haven't quite understood the difference between them.

If you believe
all religious traditions as sharing a single, universal truth, on which foundation all religious knowledge has grown (that's the gist of 'philosophia perennis', right?), do you believe all religions can lead to salvation? Do you see yourself as a pluralist?

In my cult days, I used to teach 'we stand right next to God, but we've got our back to Him, and we're looking the wrong bloody way!' But then my partner, who I met there (and we're the only couple to my knowledge who remained together subsequently) used to say I'm more Catholic than I know, and more Buddhist than I care to admit! And she's an atheist! It's right what they say about ladies and multi-tasking ... :eek: :D
How do Catholic faith and Buddhist mind coexist in harmony in one person? Buddhists don't believe in God (that's what I heard), do they? That is a fundamental difference making it almost impossible (for me at least) to marry two different ideas of what they perceive as the ultimate reality, IMHO.

... Your partner is an atheist? Really? Did you ever try to convince her of God? You know, I have many disbeliever friends. Sometimes I feel such an urge to make them see my newly-found world, but at the same time, I don't want to push, because I can lose them if I do. I'm not worried about their salvation tho, since I learned Pope John Paul II said that all who live a just life will be saved even if they do not believe in Jesus Christ. Then I heard Billy Graham saying something very similar ... I realized my preconception that all Christians believe "you go to hell if you don't believe" had been wrong.

A famous philosopher said to know something you have to be able to make a tour of it. We can't do that with God, He's always over the horizon. But that's where the human really lives – on the horizon. On the edge. There's a story about a theologian walking on the beach, trying to understand the Holy Trinity. (Or Scripture.) He meets a child, carrying a bucket of water from the sea, and pouring it into a hole in the sand. "You muppet," the theologian laughs, "you'll never empty the oceans into that hole." "You're the numpty," the child says. "I'll empty the all the oceans long before you figure out the Trinity."
Yeah ... There are times I get very frustrated for not being able to comprehend so many things... then I ask myself "Who understands 100% then?" ... Perhaps not even a pope. Then, what's the matter, eh? God doesn't draw a line like "You must get theology at least 51% correctly to enter into my Paradise." ...I don't think so. I decided to believe it's not how much I get it right, but it's how much I'm trying (seeking) to understand, and that itself pleases God.

======

I'm short on time and unable to address everything you wrote. But please know that it's all greatly appreciated. A lot to think about. Thank you.
There still are some things I want to go back to in earlier posts of yours ...
One is:
My faith doesn't even depend on the Ten Commandments. The evidence is that other contemporary cultures came up with much the same lists.
You say other cultures came up with much the same lists ... I concur. Doesn't this mean God's wisdom has been revealed to people of other or all cultures; that God has been bestowing divine inspiration equally on people everywhere in the world also?

I wish not to offend anyone Jewish, but the notion of one specific people being 'God-chosen' doesn't really compute in my head. Would God choose one people over another?? Isn't it simply that ancient Israelis happened to have great leaders/prophets and got the better perception of God, and were able to build their nation on it ... And who is to say Hindus and Buddhists don't have the right perception of God or transcendent reality (or whatever they call it) ... ?

But one could argue ... if God came down to earth in the form of a human body (Jesus Christ), then you could say God chose the Jewish nation by choosing to be a Jew, I suppose? ... But the way I see, it just so happened that Jewish culture was most ripe (spiritually) to receive God's messages through Christ among other cultures, at that time ...


======

I have more things I want to ask you - but I haven't the luxury of time at the moment. I'll have guests over this weekend and I'll visit my parents soon after they leave ... I probably won't be able to post until the holiday season is over ... So, Merry Christmas to you and all Christians in this forum!

And to Jewish folks, Happy Hanukkah!

And to Muslim folks, ... Do you have a celebration in December ... ?
Well, Happy Holidays!

And to everyone (religious or otherwise), I wish you all a safe and joyful holiday season!
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,379
Reaction score
2,625
Points
108
No? ... dang! I was thinking of sending my nephew to Sunday school of a nearby Catholic church with a recording device. :D
Well my experience was during the 60s, and I would have hoped it has changed since.

... It seems you've found answers on your own, not just followed your church or your pastors ... People like you are the folk I'm interested in learning from.
OK. Thank you.

Is 'philosophia perennis' the same as 'prisca theologia'?
No. There's a fundamental distinction between the two, which in the prisca's case is due to the error, as I see it, of failing to distinguish between the universal and the particular.

The prisca was the result of a Neoplatonist revival in Europe in the 15th century, notably Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494). It assumes there existed an ideal 'form', a primordial and perfect religion, a body of knowledge that is the source of all religions, which are inevitably dilutions and distortions of this pristine original. They retain vestiges of this prototypical 'form', but in themselves are incomplete and incapable of making possible the attainment of perfection.

The sophia perennis holds that religion is the appearance of the Divine in the created, of God in world, the Real in the illusory, of Atma in Maya, light in darkness. It arises 'spontaneously' (according to the will of heaven) and as a revelation is complete and entire in itself, and contains all in itself necessary to attain its promise.

Where all religion becomes one is in the formless, beyond the realm of forms, both material and mental. This was where the prisca went wrong, looking for a primordial sacred text, from which they assumed all sacred texts derive.

The problem is, we can't do 'formless religion' – as soon as we have the sense of something, the idea, we clothe it with form. You can't convey the formless with words.

That's where so many esoteric schools have gone wrong in the West, this quest for the 'first form' – Romance movements call it 'the Ancient Wisdom', as if there existed from the very beginning a complete body of teaching from which everything derives.

Agostino Steuco (1497–1548), who refined the ideas of Ficino and Mirandola, coined the term philosophia perennis to make the distinction.

We'll take the next bit in bites ...

If you believe all religious traditions as sharing a single, universal truth ...
I believe all religious traditions are an approach, a way to 'It' which, as the Tao says, cannot be spoken. They all evidence a single universal desire, the vocation to know.

... do you believe all religions can lead to salvation? Do you see yourself as a pluralist?
Well I would discern between 'traditional' religion, and the modern phenomenon which seems more enshrined in cultural ideology.

How do Catholic faith and Buddhist mind coexist in harmony in one person?
They both seek the Good as such, and the good of man. How that is defined differs.

Buddhists don't believe in God (that's what I heard), do they?
Not in the same way a Christian does. They do believe in the Uncreated.

That is a fundamental difference making it almost impossible (for me at least) to marry two different ideas of what they perceive as the ultimate reality, IMHO.
I think the difference lies in one's investment. You can only really invest yourself in one.

I don't go in for 'mix-n-match', 'cherry-picking' or 'boutique religions'. That, again, is a cultural thing, the product of consumerism.

... Your partner is an atheist? Really? Did you ever try to convince her of God?
LOL. If you knew her you'd understand.

You know, I have many disbeliever friends. Sometimes I feel such an urge to make them see my newly-found world, but at the same time, I don't want to push, because I can lose them if I do.
Yes.

I'm not worried about their salvation tho, since I learned Pope John Paul II said that all who live a just life will be saved even if they do not believe in Jesus Christ. Then I heard Billy Graham saying something very similar ... I realized my preconception that all Christians believe "you go to hell if you don't believe" had been wrong.
Quite. It seems to persist among the more vocal.

Yeah ... There are times I get very frustrated for not being able to comprehend so many things... then I ask myself "Who understands 100% then?" ... Perhaps not even a pope.
Nope. But then you only have to love, and everything else falls into place.

Then, what's the matter, eh? God doesn't draw a line like "You must get theology at least 51% correctly to enter into my Paradise." ...I don't think so. I decided to believe it's not how much I get it right, but it's how much I'm trying (seeking) to understand, and that itself pleases God.
Good for you.

But please know that it's all greatly appreciated. A lot to think about. Thank you.
My pleasure.

You say other cultures came up with much the same lists ... I concur. Doesn't this mean God's wisdom has been revealed to people of other or all cultures; that God has been bestowing divine inspiration equally on people everywhere in the world also?
Well I'm not sure how they addressed God on their lists, if at all. Rather I was thinking of don't kill, don't steal ... these are not really divine injunctions, they're common sense?

I wish not to offend anyone Jewish, but the notion of one specific people being 'God-chosen' doesn't really compute in my head. Would God choose one people over another?
No.

But one could argue ... if God came down to earth in the form of a human body (Jesus Christ), then you could say God chose the Jewish nation by choosing to be a Jew, I suppose? ... But the way I see, it just so happened that Jewish culture was most ripe (spiritually) to receive God's messages through Christ among other cultures, at that time ...
Yes. I think it revolves round the idea of 'person' as defining the core essence of the fulness of being.

I have more things I want to ask you -
Fire away. In your own time.
 

greentwiga

Member
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
Points
0
They don't have to be compatible because they're entire different things. It's comparing apples and orangutans.

We don't know all the details about evolution through natural selection, but we know enough to be absolutely certain that it happened and continues to happen. It's a fact. Period.

Genesis is a collection of folktales, and appears to be two different books by two different authors, weaved together into a sort of singular narrative. Chapters 1 & 2 provide separate, conflicting accounts of creation.

That strikes me as absolute proof that the people who weaved those stories together never meant it to be taken literally in the way we think of history or science today.

The sad thing is that the popular interpretation of Genesis conflicts with science. A very careful read of the book comes up with a different picture. For example, The story of Adam and Eve shows that it is not the story of the first two humans. It is the description of the location, time, and people who invented agriculture.

Therefore, the Bible is extremely accurate, and is compatible with evolution.
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,379
Reaction score
2,625
Points
108
The sad thing is that the popular interpretation of Genesis conflicts with science.
Only when it assumes Genesis is 'science' in the modern narrowly-defined concept of the word – that which is subject to empirical determination. Such an assumption is an error from the off.

A very careful read of the book comes up with a different picture.
It should indicate a contemplation of man and his purpose in the cosmos. Not as a textbook on man as an object, but man as a subject ... man as noumenon, rather than phenomenon.

For example, The story of Adam and Eve shows that it is not the story of the first two humans.
Well it rather does ... Genesis 1:26 and 2:7 et seq offer two accounts – famously the Jawhist and the Elohist – of the emergence of the species!

Therefore, the Bible is extremely accurate, and is compatible with evolution.
True religion cannot be incompatible with true science. To say it is implies a misconception of religion, or science, or both!
 

Devils' Advocate

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,086
Reaction score
381
Points
83
Location
In this so called Reality. Well, most of the time.
True religion cannot be incompatible with true science. To say it is implies a misconception of religion, or science, or both!. Thomas.

Is that what you meant to say? The two cannot be incompatible? From my point of view, the two are very often quite incompatible. There is another complication for me in that sentence though. I understand what defines a true science from a pseudo science. I have no real handle on what separates a true religion from a pseudo one.
 

A Cup Of Tea

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,310
Reaction score
566
Points
108
In this understanding of 'true religion' religion never touch on what science try to understand. In the same way Thomas said "man as noumenon, rather than phenomenon" the scientific method seek to understand man as the physical manifestation but the philosophical schools seek to understand man in more intangible ways.
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,379
Reaction score
2,625
Points
108
From my point of view, the two are very often quite incompatible.
Yet there are those who stand in the forefront of science, and who find nothing incompatible with their beliefs. That should say something.

There is another complication for me in that sentence though. I understand what defines a true science from a pseudo science. I have no real handle on what separates a true religion from a pseudo one.
Yes, but then I think both can be problematic. There's a lot of people who believe in pseudo science. And there's a lot of people who refute religion based on pseudo science, just the same, and just as bad, as those who refute science on pseudo religious grounds.
 

wil

UNeyeR1
Moderator
Messages
22,798
Reaction score
2,505
Points
108
Location
a figment of your imagination
Yes there are scientists who are Muslim, Christian, Hindu etc....

But as a ratio of secular v nonsecular scientists... I believe the believers are on the wane...

and those that keep on both question themselves as to the nature and breadth of their belief....

a hundred years ago it was probably over 90%....today a third claim to be believers and over 40% believe in no higher power.... (vs 83% believers and 4% no higher power amongst the general public)
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,379
Reaction score
2,625
Points
108
Yes there are scientists who are Muslim, Christian, Hindu etc...
Well there you go then. Some of the world's best brains are. Some aren't. That alone should tell us there's no conflict between religion and science.

But as a ratio of secular v nonsecular scientists... I believe the believers are on the wane...
But that's not science disproving God.

I don't think it's even down to science. It's a cultural trend.

If people think science is disproving God, then they probably have an idea of God not far on from those who's god is a fierce old man who causes thunderstorms when he's angry.

In my reading, if science provides the grounds not to believe in Gods or Buddhas, then we're not talking about the Gods or Buddhas spoken of in their Traditions and their Sacra Doctrina.

And secular scientists readily admit they don't know everything, nor that science will necessarily provide the answer to everything.

To believe that science will provide all the answers is to express a 'blind faith' in science: 'Scientism'. Or 'scientific fundamentalism'.

and those that keep on both question themselves as to the nature and breadth of their belief...
And so they should. Anyone who thinks they've got God or Buddha 'sorted' is, again, barking up the wrong tree.

And those who do keep up are pushing back the boundaries of scientific knowledge. Look at Erich Pryzwara (who's book I happen to know Santa is going to pop into my stocking! Metaphysics, satsumas and chocolate ... I can't wait!), John Millbank, John Polkinghorne ...

... a hundred years ago it was probably over 90%....today a third claim to be believers and over 40% believe in no higher power.... (vs 83% believers and 4% no higher power amongst the general public)
You been fishing for stats again? :D

Frankly I'd say I'd want to weigh the evidence before jumping to any conclusions. I would say that's the outcome of an ideology that places the Relative above the absolute.

But this is a pointless line of argument –

It is clearly evident that 'knowledge' is not the same as 'enlightenment', otherwise the more one knew, the more 'saintly' one would be, and an 'evil scientist' would be a contradiction.

And all the evidence points to the fact that, as a human being, a scientist – or indeed the most informed polymath – can be as dumb, or an unenlightened, as the next man.

Enlightenment is not a measure of knowledge. It's a measure of Being. Says so in the Bible. says so in Buddhism. Says so in 'em all. If it were otherwise, we'd have left the Buddha behind a long time ago ...

New Scientist is firmly of the opinion that religion predates science, and will postdate it, too! :D Natural lines of inquiry have natural limits, that the nature of the world.

Man will always think and quest beyond those limits.
 
Top