Christianity before modern times.

Abrahamic religion, you know, the one with the cross...

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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#21  Postby TimONeill » Oct 10, 2010 5:53 am

quas wrote:
TimONeill wrote:Because to interpret everything in the Bible literally leads to having to believe things that are demonstrably not the case. If we know for a fact that the Earth is not flat, then interpreting passages that seem to say it is literally leads the interpreter to have to deny reality.

Of course we know now that the Earth isn't flat. Why would the Church Fathers have any reason to suspect that the Earth isn't flat?


Since many of them were fairly learned guys, they had read their Aristotle and others who made the relevant arguments that showed the earth was a sphere. Once people worked out that lunar eclipses are caused by the shadow of the Earth on the Moon it doesn't take too much deduction to draw the clear inference from the fact that this shadow is curved. If they then observed a ship sailing over the horizon and saw that its hull disappears from view first and the tip of its mast last the sphericity of the Earth is pretty much there to be seen.

These guys weren't idiots.

As for why some things which are clearly absurd - like people walking on water or raising people from the dead - are interpreted figuratively when geocentric passages aren't, that seems to be because those things can be seen as single instance suspensions of normality - ie miracles.

And yes, I know that doesn't make much sense but it does make marginally more sense than outright literalism.

It still doesn't make any more sense, not even a teensy-weensy bit more.


Yes, it does make a teensy-weensy bit more. Accepting that the Earth is a sphere even if the Bible says its flat while also accepting that while men don't normally walk on water, this one did by God's magic does make more sense than accepting the latter and rejecting the sphericity of the Earth, despite what your own eyes tell you when you watch a ship sail over the horizon. Yes, I know "miracles" are still silly, but rejecting something like the Earth being a sphere as well as believing in miracles is sillier.

If we use the "single instance" cop-out, then we could say," One time, at Garden of Eden, the devil disguised himself as a serpent..." That perfectly explains why all the other snakes couldn't talk to human, because the devil didn't disguise himself as a snake anymore. Because it was one time event too, we could also say that the Jonah incident really happened, after all the Bible didn't record anyone else besides Jonah surviving for 3 days inside a whale's stomach. And the flood, that was a one time event too...


Yes, they could do that. The Jonah story, for example, often was interpreted literally. That doesn't change what I say above. You can't use the "single instance" cop out when it comes to whether the Earth is a sphere or flat.

There must be another reason that would enable Christians to differentiate between what's really literal and what's not.


Eh?
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#22  Postby nunnington » Oct 10, 2010 6:15 am

Tim has outlined the 'fourfold' method of interpretation, which I think was sometimes known as the 'quadriga', which refers to a four horse carriage.

There is some evidence for this in the NT itself, in the famous Galatians 4: 24 text about Abraham's two sons and their mothers:

"Now this is an allegory, these women are two covenants", and the allegory is then spelled out. This text seems to show that allegory was used quite normally in Jewish interpretations.

At times, the allegorical method became very ornate, as seen in this text from Augustine:

"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho: Adam himself is meant; Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means "the moon," and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, and dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely, of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead-he is therefore called half dead. The Priest and Levite who saw him and passed by signify the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament, which could profit nothing for salvation, Samaritan means "guardian," and therefore the Lord Himself is signified by this name. The binding of the wounds is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope; wine the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast is the flesh in which he deigned to come to us. The being set upon the beast is belief in the incarnation of Christ. The inn is the Church, where travellers are refreshed on their return from pilgrimage to their heavenly country. The morrow is after the resurrection of the Lord. The two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come. The innkeeper is the Apostle."

Quaestiones Evangeliorum 2: 19

I think some famous stained glass windows show the allegorical meaning of the Good Samaritan - Chartres?

One thing that is amazing today is how many people, including some atheists, have bought into the fundie myth that literalism is the default position in Christianity, when even a cursory investigation shows the extent of non-literal interpretation. Such is the power of myth! The myth also runs: 'these bloody liberals have this new-fangled symbolic interpretation of Biblical texts, and this is a cop-out, and utterly revisionist'!
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#23  Postby quas » Oct 10, 2010 6:38 am

TimONeill wrote:Yes, they could do that. The Jonah story, for example, often was interpreted literally. That doesn't change what I say above. You can't use the "single instance" cop out when it comes to whether the Earth is a sphere or flat.

So you are saying that there is a tradition for believing the Jonah story literally. Earlier on, you said Catholics follow traditions strictly. That means, the current Pope believes the Jonah story to be an accurate historical story? Of course, this is not just about Jonah, there are other one-time events as well such as Noah's ark, talking donkey/mule, etc, all of which the current Pope believes to literally have happened for the sole reason that they will never occur again or at least have never been observed to occur again. Am I right?
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#24  Postby TimONeill » Oct 10, 2010 6:51 am

quas wrote:
TimONeill wrote:Yes, they could do that. The Jonah story, for example, often was interpreted literally. That doesn't change what I say above. You can't use the "single instance" cop out when it comes to whether the Earth is a sphere or flat.


So you are saying that there is a tradition for believing the Jonah story literally.


No, I'm saying the Jonah story can and has been interpreted literally.

Earlier on, you said Catholics follow traditions strictly.


You seem to be confused about what I mean by the word Tradition (I'll use a capital T to differentiate it from "a tradition"). In Catholic doctrine there are two main sources of divine authority: (i) revelation (ie the Scriptures) and (ii) Tradition. The latter is the concensus of opinion by "authorities", such a the Church Fathers, various ecumenical councils, the dictates of various Popes etc. "Revelation" doesn't change, but "Tradition", which is used to interpret "Revelation" or apply it in given cases, can do so (though rarely does).

So when a Catholic theologian or a simple Catholic believer wants to know how to interpret a passage, they turn to the Tradition of the Church to see how it has generally been interpreted.

That means, the current Pope believes the Jonah story to be an accurate historical story?


I'm pretty sure if you asked him he'd say that the literal truth of the story isn't the important bit and its the allegorical meaning that really matters. This has generally been the emphasis of Catholic exegesis of this passage.

Of course, this is not just about Jonah! Aside from the repeatably observable phenomenons eg. the rising and setting of the sun, lunar eclipses, etc, there are other one-time events as well such as Noah's ark, talking donkey/mule, etc, all of which the current Pope believed to literally have happened for the sole reason that they will never occur again or at least have never been observed to occur again. Am I right?


Probably not actually. But you'd have to ask the Pope. I imagine, again, that he'd say the literal meanings of those stories aren't the meanings we're supposed to be paying attention to.

And yes, that's a cop out. Take it up with them. I'm just trying to explain how non-literal interpretations of the Bible have been around for a hell of a long time and how pure literalism is actually quite recent.
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#25  Postby klazmon » Oct 10, 2010 6:57 am

quas wrote:
Of course we know now that the Earth isn't flat. Why would the Church Fathers have any reason to suspect that the Earth isn't flat?



As Tim mentioned, the spherical nature of the Earth was well known in ancient Greece, as per the arguments listed by Aristotle, though I am not sure that he was the original source. Around 240 BC, the scholar Eratosthenes set out to measure the Earth's circumference by obtaining measurements of the Sun's noon altitude at two well separated locations on near the same meridian. His result, despite the inherent errors in the method, was reasonably close to the modern measured value.
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#26  Postby quas » Oct 10, 2010 7:42 am

TimONeill wrote:No, I'm saying the Jonah story can and has been interpreted literally.

I see.

I'm pretty sure if you asked him he'd say that the literal truth of the story isn't the important bit and its the allegorical meaning that really matters. This has generally been the emphasis of Catholic exegesis of this passage.

Okay.

But here's the point. Contrast this attitude with the attitude of early Christians you showed me earlier:

What person of intelligence, I ask, will consider as a reasonable statement that the first and the second and the third day, in which there are said to be both morning and evening, existed without sun and moon and stars, while the first day was even without a heaven? .... I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history.
(Origen, First Principles, IV.3)

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. (Augustine, On Genesis, XXXIX.19.1)


It seems to me that early Christians, or Origen and Augustine at least, are totally 100% confident that any thing that defy common sense cannot be taken literally at all. Now, this is of course different from what you think the Pope's opinion on these matters would be. The Pope is somewhat unsure and perhaps he might even secretly believe in a literal Genesis. Perhaps the situation is similar to rumors about how the previous Pope used to flog himself even though he did not publicly advocate self-flagellation. Now, what interests me is, of course, from where does the Pope's doubts come from? If the Pope has doubts, does that mean that doubt has always existed in Catholic Traditions? If so, then the early Christians, or Origen and Augustine at least, in being so cocksure in the non-occurrence of the flood and other genesis stories, must be defying the good ol' Traditions of Maybes?
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#27  Postby TimONeill » Oct 10, 2010 8:06 am

quas wrote:But here's the point. Contrast this attitude with the attitude of early Christians you showed me earlier:

What person of intelligence, I ask, will consider as a reasonable statement that the first and the second and the third day, in which there are said to be both morning and evening, existed without sun and moon and stars, while the first day was even without a heaven? .... I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history.
(Origen, First Principles, IV.3)

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. (Augustine, On Genesis, XXXIX.19.1)


It seems to me that early Christians, or Origen and Augustine at least, are totally 100% confident that any thing that defy common sense cannot be taken literally at all.


No, Origen and Augustine are saying that some things can't be taken literally. Augustine is saying that the nature of things that reason and observation tell us are a certain way ("the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth") can't be said to be some other way simply because a literal interpretation of scripture says so. If scripture seems to say this, then we can't take that passage literally and have to look at what it's "really" saying.

Origen is making a similar but different point. He says that if something in the Bible doesn't make sense in a literal reading (eg mornings and evenings before there was a sun or moon) then this is another indication that a literal meaning isn't appropriate here.

Other things that seem to defy common sense can be taken literally, but that's when they are one off miraculous exceptions, not descriptions of or references to how things are normally (eg Jonah and the fish, walking on water etc).

Now, this is of course different from what you think the Pope's opinion on these matters would be.


How? It seems to fit exactly with what I guess the Pope would say. Or what any non-literalist Christian would say.
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#28  Postby quas » Oct 10, 2010 11:58 am

So, specifically, what did both Augustine and Origen believe about the flood? Did they think it really happened?
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#29  Postby TimONeill » Oct 10, 2010 12:10 pm

quas wrote:So, specifically, what did both Augustine and Origen believe about the flood? Did they think it really happened?


I'm not sure about Origen, but Augustine seems to have. Then again, his section in De Civite Dei about the ark is mainly about what the dimensions of the ark etc and what they mean symbolically, so if someone came along and showed him that the Flood didn't happen he probably wouldn't have been too bothered - for him the allegorical, moral and eschatological levels of exegesis were the point of most bits of the Bible anyway.

Which is quite a contrast to your modern fundie, as I said originally.
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#30  Postby quas » Oct 10, 2010 12:16 pm

Dare you say that, it seems like, for both Origen and Augustine it wasn't necessary for the resurrection to have happened literally?
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#31  Postby TimONeill » Oct 10, 2010 7:58 pm

quas wrote:Dare you say that, it seems like, for both Origen and Augustine it wasn't necessary for the resurrection to have happened literally?


NO, not neccessary, but they clearly thought that it did. Ditto for most modern non-literalist Christians. I say "most" because these days there actually are a substantial number of modern non-literalist Christians who do regard the resurrection as purely figurative or symbolic or something.
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#32  Postby klazmon » Oct 10, 2010 9:45 pm

TimONeill wrote:
quas wrote:Dare you say that, it seems like, for both Origen and Augustine it wasn't necessary for the resurrection to have happened literally?


NO, not neccessary, but they clearly thought that it did. Ditto for most modern non-literalist Christians. I say "most" because these days there actually are a substantial number of modern non-literalist Christians who do regard the resurrection as purely figurative or symbolic or something.


A local Methodist minister got into a dispute with her diocese for espousing such views. She didn't believe in any of the Jesus miracle stuff as being literally true. There is obviously a wide variation of belief among protestant clergy, which is no doubt why there are such a large number of different sects. Probably less so with the Catholic and Orthodox clergy where there is a more rigid structure and authority specifying the official dogma.
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#33  Postby GakuseiDon » Oct 10, 2010 11:28 pm

Quas, as some have already pointed out, Fundamentalism is a relatively modern movement. Here is a famous sermon called "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" by Harry Emerson Fosdick in the 1920s, where he highlights the dangers of that new movement, Fundamentalism: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5070/

    ... Already all of us must have heard about the people who call themselves the Fundamentalists. Their apparent intention is to drive out of the evangelical churches men and women of liberal opinions...

    [The Fundamentalists] insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, preeminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration—that the original documents of the Scripture, which of course we no longer possess, were inerrantly dictated to men a good deal as a man might dictate to a stenographer; that we must believe in a special theory of the Atonement...

    Here, for example, is one point of view that the virgin birth is to be accepted as historical fact; it actually happened; there was no other way for a personality like the Master to come into this world except by a special biological miracle. That is one point of view, and many are the gracious and beautiful souls who hold it. But side by side with them in the evangelical churches is a group of equally loyal and reverent people who would say that the virgin birth is not to be accepted as an historic fact...

    Consider another matter on which there is a sincere difference of opinion between evangelical Christians: the inspiration of the Bible. One point of view is that the original documents of the Scripture were inerrantly dictated by God to men... They were inerrantly dictated; everything there—scientific opinions, medical theories, historical judgments, as well as spiritual insight—is infallible. That is one idea of the Bible’s inspiration. But side by side with those who hold it, lovers of the Book as much as they, are multitudes of people who never think about the Bible so. Indeed, that static and mechanical theory of inspiration seems to them a positive peril to the spiritual life...

    One view is that Christ is literally coming, externally, on the clouds of heaven, to set up His kingdom here. I never heard that teaching in my youth at all... Side by side with these to whom the second coming is a literal expectation, another group exists in the evangelical churches... these Christians, when they say that Christ is coming, mean that, slowly it may be, but surely, His will and principles will be worked out by God’s grace in human life and institutions, until “He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.”

We can see here about the concern of the rise of Fundamentalism in the early 20th Century. Many (including Christians) have bought into the myth that Fundamentalism represents "mainstream Christianity", with liberal churches splitting themselves away from this "Fundamentalist mainstream". But in fact, the opposite would be more accurate.
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#34  Postby Moses de la Montagne » Oct 11, 2010 1:34 am

nunnington wrote:Tim has outlined the 'fourfold' method of interpretation, which I think was sometimes known as the 'quadriga', which refers to a four horse carriage.

There is some evidence for this in the NT itself, in the famous Galatians 4: 24 text about Abraham's two sons and their mothers:

"Now this is an allegory, these women are two covenants", and the allegory is then spelled out. This text seems to show that allegory was used quite normally in Jewish interpretations.

At times, the allegorical method became very ornate, as seen in this text from Augustine:

"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho: Adam himself is meant; Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means "the moon," and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, and dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely, of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead-he is therefore called half dead. The Priest and Levite who saw him and passed by signify the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament, which could profit nothing for salvation, Samaritan means "guardian," and therefore the Lord Himself is signified by this name. The binding of the wounds is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope; wine the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast is the flesh in which he deigned to come to us. The being set upon the beast is belief in the incarnation of Christ. The inn is the Church, where travellers are refreshed on their return from pilgrimage to their heavenly country. The morrow is after the resurrection of the Lord. The two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come. The innkeeper is the Apostle."

Quaestiones Evangeliorum 2: 19


And yet, the "ornately allegorical" Augustine also insisted that there actually was an earthly Garden of Eden despite whatever fanciful allegories could be read from the passage:

City of God 13:21 wrote:Some allegorize all that concerns Paradise itself, where the first men, the parents of the human race, are, according to the truth of holy Scripture, recorded to have been; and they understand all its trees and fruit-bearing plants as virtues and habits of life, as if they had no existence in the external world, but were only so spoken of or related for the sake of spiritual meanings. As if there could not be a real terrestrial Paradise! As if there never existed these two women, Sarah and Hagar, nor the two sons who were born to Abraham, the one of the bond woman, the other of the free, because the apostle says that in them the two covenants were prefigured; or as if water never flowed from the rock when Moses struck it, because therein Christ can be seen in a figure, as the same apostle says, “Now that rock was Christ!”


So while there is indeed New Testament evidence of allegory, it has to be remembered that Augustine did not take Paul's allegorical rendering of Isaac & Ishmael in Galatians to mean that Isaac & Ishmael had never actually existed. Augustine also believed that the Flood was a historical fact, possibly because Jesus Himself did (Matthew 24:38), and he nearly exhausted his capacity for creative thought in City of God to prove that an actual ark was built to house all the beasts of the world. He was also an early champion of a young earth on the basis that the scriptures were the highest authority:

City of God 12:10 wrote:Reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.

... and therefore the Greek history must receive the greater credit than the Egyptian, because it does not exceed the true account of the duration of the world as it is given by our documents, which are truly sacred. Further, if this letter of Alexander, which has become so famous, differs widely in this matter of chronology from the probable credible account, how much less can we believe these documents which, though full of fabulous and fictitious antiquities, they would fain oppose to the authority of our well-known and divine books, which predicted that the whole world would believe them, and which the whole world accordingly has believed; which proved, too, that it had truly narrated past events by its prediction of future events, which have so exactly come to pass!


Though the case may be that the Early Church Fathers were not quite literalists in the same manner as Protestant Fundamentalists are, it has to be conceded that for the most part they were anxious to protect a literal rendering wherever possible in order to preserve the integrity of the biblical accounts. So, nice allegories and all, but they still took a great deal of it literally in spite of rational opposition from non-Christians.

I think it was Porphyry who read Origen and decided to just ignore the allegory and conclude that the bible was junk. :grin:
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#35  Postby GakuseiDon » Oct 11, 2010 2:09 am

Moses de la Montagne wrote:Augustine also believed that the Flood was a historical fact, possibly because Jesus Himself did (Matthew 24:38), and he nearly exhausted his capacity for creative thought in City of God to prove that an actual ark was built to house all the beasts of the world. He was also an early champion of a young earth on the basis that the scriptures were the highest authority

I don't think that anyone argues that Augustine, Origen, etc, weren't products of their time. Whether Augustine would have accepted the modern evidence for an old earth we can't know, but the point is: he could say that, if an old earth is established beyond doubt, then the literal interpretation of the relevant passages suggesting a young earth could be dropped. And that would have been perfectly consistent with his approach towards the rest of the Bible. It's the Fundamentalist who is pretty much locked into having only the one approach to the Bible.
If Acharya S has seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of Pygmies. "The Pygmy Christ was born of a virgin, died for the salvation of his people, arose from the dead, and finally ascended to heaven." -- Acharya S
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#36  Postby quas » Oct 11, 2010 4:26 am

GakuseiDon wrote:
Moses de la Montagne wrote:Augustine also believed that the Flood was a historical fact, possibly because Jesus Himself did (Matthew 24:38), and he nearly exhausted his capacity for creative thought in City of God to prove that an actual ark was built to house all the beasts of the world. He was also an early champion of a young earth on the basis that the scriptures were the highest authority

I don't think that anyone argues that Augustine, Origen, etc, weren't products of their time. Whether Augustine would have accepted the modern evidence for an old earth we can't know, but the point is: he could say that, if an old earth is established beyond doubt, then the literal interpretation of the relevant passages suggesting a young earth could be dropped. And that would have been perfectly consistent with his approach towards the rest of the Bible. It's the Fundamentalist who is pretty much locked into having only the one approach to the Bible.

But this is so counter-intuitive. If people hold greater reverence on the truth of mankind (scientists, mathematicians, etc) over the the veracity of their religious texts vis-a-vis their God, why be religious in the first place? If they are ready to allow scientific discovery to supersede their faiths, then why have faith? Supposing that one day they find evidence that Christianity is totally untrue, say, Jesus never existed at all, would they stop believing? I think we all know too well the answer to that question.
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#37  Postby Moses de la Montagne » Oct 11, 2010 4:30 am

GakuseiDon wrote:I don't think that anyone argues that Augustine, Origen, etc, weren't products of their time. Whether Augustine would have accepted the modern evidence for an old earth we can't know, but the point is: he could say that, if an old earth is established beyond doubt, then the literal interpretation of the relevant passages suggesting a young earth could be dropped. And that would have been perfectly consistent with his approach towards the rest of the Bible. It's the Fundamentalist who is pretty much locked into having only the one approach to the Bible.


Quite true, but what’s being argued is that Christian thought in any era is a product not only of its time, but of the faith itself. (To be fair, there was a goodly amount of scoffers during the early days who derided Christianity for its dependence on Hebrew fables). Cheering the Catholics for not being Protestant Fundamentalists does not mitigate the instances where an allegorical rendering of scripture is nothing without first a literal understanding.

The Incarnation, for example, (which is still de fide) must be understood as a historical fact by the believing Catholic, upon which a variety of allegorical takes can later be applied (“God became man so that man might become divine;” “I live, yet not I, but Christ within me,” &c.)

A Christian can, of course, allow for the possibility of miracles notwithstanding what science has to say, but this only raises the question. If you’re going to allow for miracles in spite of science, why bother to distinguish between a young earth, a talking snake, a global flood, a virgin birth, and the Word made flesh? I mean, take your pick.

The answer is the same now as it was when Augustine was writing: guard the literal meaning zealously (“we must prove the demonstrations of physical science as well as we can to be entirely false”) and, if necessary, capitulate only on the non-essentials. For this reason a modern Catholic can grin while dismissing the Flood; the conversation gets considerably more awkward when the Virgin Birth is introduced. When it comes to the dogmas of the faith, there is still only “one approach.”
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#38  Postby GakuseiDon » Oct 11, 2010 1:20 pm

quas wrote:But this is so counter-intuitive. If people hold greater reverence on the truth of mankind (scientists, mathematicians, etc) over the the veracity of their religious texts vis-a-vis their God, why be religious in the first place?

It's not "greater reverence". It is simply not to take the Bible literally. You have bought into the whole Fundamentalist mind-set that literal interpretation is the "pure" one, and anything else is a watering down of faith. Isn't that what your argument is? If so, can you explain why that should be the case? Why can't an allegorical approach be the "pure" one, and literalism a watering down of faith?

Here is Origen again:

    "...it is very easy for any one who pleases to gather out of Holy Scripture what is recorded indeed as having been done, but what nevertheless cannot be believed as having reasonably and appropriately occurred according to the historical account. The same style of Scriptural narrative occurs abundantly in the Gospels, as when the devil is said to have placed Jesus on a lofty mountain, that he might show Him from thence all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. How could it literally come to pass, either that Jesus should be led up by the devil into a high mountain, or that the latter should show him all the kingdoms of the world, i.e. the kingdoms of the Persians, and Scythians, and Indians? ... And many other instances similar to this will be found in the Gospels by any one who will read with much attention, and will observe that in those narratives which appear to be literally recorded, there are inserted and interwoven things which cannot be admitted historically, but which may be admitted in a spiritual signification."

quas wrote:If they are ready to allow scientific discovery to supersede their faiths, then why have faith?

Supersede their faiths in what respect? Give me a scientific discovery from the last fifty years -- and science has advanced more in the last fifty years than at any similar time before -- which has resulted in a "superseding of faith".

quas wrote:Supposing that one day they find evidence that Christianity is totally untrue, say, Jesus never existed at all, would they stop believing? I think we all know too well the answer to that question.

Yes, so do I. Many will. Some won't.
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#39  Postby Byron » Oct 11, 2010 10:09 pm

TimONeill wrote: I say "most" because these days there actually are a substantial number of modern non-literalist Christians who do regard the resurrection as purely figurative or symbolic or something.

A view that finds its most extreme expression in John Dominic Crossan's musing that Jesus' corpse was left to rot on the cross & eaten by wild dogs.

Dale Allison has a fair crack at formulating this historical/theological split in The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus. The rationalist in me appreciates a version of faith that ringfences historical facts from distortion. But I'm not sure that the view's internally coherent. Allison and Crossan both make great play on separating historical truth from "theological truth". But if theological truth is dependent on historicity, if one pillar falls, the other must come crashing down.

I'd love to hear Origeon's take on it!
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Re: Christianity before modern times.

#40  Postby quas » Oct 12, 2010 4:19 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:It's not "greater reverence". It is simply not to take the Bible literally. You have bought into the whole Fundamentalist mind-set that literal interpretation is the "pure" one, and anything else is a watering down of faith. Isn't that what your argument is? If so, can you explain why that should be the case? Why can't an allegorical approach be the "pure" one, and literalism a watering down of faith?

Isn't it a little inconsistent when you pick-and-choose which ones you want to interpret literally?

Here is Origen again:

    "...it is very easy for any one who pleases to gather out of Holy Scripture what is recorded indeed as having been done, but what nevertheless cannot be believed as having reasonably and appropriately occurred according to the historical account. The same style of Scriptural narrative occurs abundantly in the Gospels, as when the devil is said to have placed Jesus on a lofty mountain, that he might show Him from thence all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. How could it literally come to pass, either that Jesus should be led up by the devil into a high mountain, or that the latter should show him all the kingdoms of the world, i.e. the kingdoms of the Persians, and Scythians, and Indians? ... And many other instances similar to this will be found in the Gospels by any one who will read with much attention, and will observe that in those narratives which appear to be literally recorded, there are inserted and interwoven things which cannot be admitted historically, but which may be admitted in a spiritual signification."

So Origen didn't think Jesus was literally resurrected?

Supersede their faiths in what respect? Give me a scientific discovery from the last fifty years -- and science has advanced more in the last fifty years than at any similar time before -- which has resulted in a "superseding of faith".
Okay, this is not just scientific discovery, since archaeology can be involved here. Take, for example, the flood story which is no longer believed to be literal because: a) science proves a flood that widespread never occurred. b)the discovery of the Gilgamesh tablets proves that Genesis wasn't the first to record the flood story, thus proving that Genesis merely copied earlier flood myths. Granted, all this is more than 50 years ago though, even if it's fairly recent.
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