• Dermot Griffin
    105
    "Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

    Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day." (Matthew 6:25-34)

    I like to think that the gospel is an attempt at helping people come to terms with their own existential angst that they experience; it is a statement against nihilism. Other than Kierkegaard, Berdyaev, and Dostoyevsky who advocate Christian existentialism I also find this approach in patristic thought (St. Basil the Great, St. Athanasius, St. Symeon the New Theologian, etc). Some western saints like Aquinas also understand this but I must admit I have been bored with it was of late; the movement of Existential Thomism that rose in the early 20th century would be something worth reading up on as I think it is a way of understanding the gospel as being anti-nihilistic. Contemporary Orthodox theologians like the late Kallistos Ware and saints like Nicholas Kabasilas also understand my point. Other than Kierkegaard, I cannot seem to find a Protestant with this same position. Not that they don't exist, of course; I am sure many do but I think the issue with Protestantism is that it has become such a loanword for anyone who isn't Catholic or Orthodox. Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists have a lot more in common with Catholics and Orthodox than most people realize. It seems to me that when you base everything on a subjective experience, like Paul does to a certain extent, or develop a dogma based on determinism, like Calvin does, the message of the gospel becomes perverted. I think the whole evangelical movement has ruined "New Testament Christianity" as Kierkegaard calls it and destroyed what the gospel really is about.
  • Ciceronianus
    2.5k
    Ancient pagan philosophers made similar statements in recommending the proper way to live centuries before the gospels were written. As guidance in that respect, they may serve that purpose. I'm not sure there's much else which can be said of them.

    If the uses to which they've been put since they were written is any indication, though, I think it's difficult to maintain they were intended only as a remedy for "existential angst."
  • Moses
    191
    I don't think the Gospels are meant to be viewed as a complete moral framework in and of themselves. Jesus specifically says that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. In this sense, I like to think of the OT as the cake and the NT as the frosting -- please don't only eat the frosting alone. You can eat the cake alone.

    Jesus is a very strange being. Normal Jewish thinkers at that time (and now) do actual textual exegesis; Jesus makes very definitive statements about the text that far exceed what a normal human should be saying -- but imho it somehow works. For instance, there's 613 commandments one can draw from the OT -- Jesus just seemingly out of nowhere points to Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 as the two most important, but in doing so he situates love as the absolute foremost value which I actually buy into.
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    nihilismDermot Griffin

    I suppose the human journey can be summed up as a struggle against nihilism. Some might even say it is the most dangerous idea to come out of the human mind - it rejects/denies/everything by definition and that includes the stuff close to our hearts and therein lies the seeds of untold suffering. :sad:

    However ...

    [ ...] from making the cure of the disease more grievous than the endurance of the same, good Lord deliver us. — Sir Robert Hutchison

    It is possible that we've jumped from the frying pan into the fire!
  • Alkis Piskas
    1.3k
    I like to think that the gospel is an attempt at helping people come to terms with their own existential angst that they experienceDermot Griffin
    What you say here implies that the Gospel was written as a kind of self-help guide by persons knowledgeable in "psychology" (never mind the name) and/or philosophy and who had and experience in helping people by proposing self-help ideas. And that was what the Evangelists had in mind and that was their purpose. Which is certainly kind of crazy, isn't it?

    You see, the word "attempt" that you are using indicates such a purpose. If instead you had said that "the gospel can be used as guide for helping people ..." or something similar, that could be acceptable. Jesus' teachings can indeed be considered a self-help material.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    I like to think that the gospel is an attempt at helping people come to terms with their own existential angst that they experienceDermot Griffin

    I think you are mistaking the message and intent of the gospel for something completely foreign to it in terms of time and place. Although someone today might find solace from their existential angst, that is not what the message in Matthew is about. Put differently, based on what you say:

    the message of the gospel becomes perverted.Dermot Griffin

    Although understandable, what is being ignored is what he says after what you quote ends, after imploring them to

    ... seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

    Two points to note. The first has to do with "tomorrow".

    Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come ...
    So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (24:42)

    The righteous should not be anxious about tomorrow because tomorrow, if not today or this hour, may be the day the Lord will come.

    Second, what is promised when he says "all these things will be yours as well" is not food and drink and clothing for the body, but what will happen on the day of judgment for the righteous:

    ... the blessed of my Father, [will] inherit the reign that hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (25:34)

    Rather than find solace from their existential angst the message should have been the source of existential angst for anyone who believed it. The day of judgment did not come as promised. To counter this the belief in a "second coming" arose, as hour after hour and day after day went by and a new generation arose who believed it would come in their time. Eventually, the belief and hope that the end was "near" was reinterpreted to mean something other than near in time.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    I like to think that the gospel is an attempt at helping people come to terms with their own existential angst that they experience; it is a statement against nihilism.Dermot Griffin
    On the contrary, the (canonical) Gospels are statements for nihilism insofar as they instruct us to prepare for "the resurrection" and "end of days" which, as Nietzche points out, places all value in "the afterlife" at the expense of completely devaluing – nihilating – this life, this world, nature. In other words, 'our (your) existence here and now is meaningless in comparison to the existence to come.' Escape from "existential angst" by denying, rather than affirming, existencehow the Shepherd pacifies the sheep into bleeting happily on their way to slaughter. :mask:
  • Ciceronianus
    2.5k
    Escape from "existential angst" by denying, rather than affirming, existence – how the Shepherd pacifies the sheep into bleeting happily on their way to slaughter. :mask:180 Proof

    An excellent point. In which case, the Stoic and Epicurean insights I thought were being repeated are instead being perverted, and used for an entirely different purpose, contra naturam. rather than secundum naturam.
  • Tate
    1.4k

    Eh, only a slave interprets a book the same all the other sheep do, toeing the line.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k


    I made the same point regarding nihilism in one of the other of the three (!) threads on Jesus.

    Maybe you will get a response.
  • Paine
    694

    I am curious what you see as more 'objective' in the Gospel texts that countervails against the excessive 'subjectivity' you see expressed by Paul.

    Kierkegaard, after all, emphasized that the experience of the Single Individual was where the struggle for one kind of life against another was happening.
  • Moses
    191
    Initially when I read the Gospels I thought of JC as a nihilist in this sense i.e. this world doesn't matter, it's all about the next.

    But upon further scrutiny Jesus logic dictates that this life matters immensely because it determines where one ends up.

    Jesus basically just says don't be afraid to die for the right reason which is in slight contrast with the OT's emphasis on trying to prolong life to the furthest extent.
  • Paine
    694

    How does the struggle of Job fit in with this objective?
  • Moses
    191


    There is conceived to be a general connection in the OT between acting good and living longer although this connection is not regarded as axiomatic... it is still a general theme. We see it in Proverbs and Deuteronomy. Of course the connection is not universal. The righteous will still suffer and Job is an early attempt at how to answer that question of why. Ecclesiastes also challenges this connection. I think it still makes sense as a general rule: Good luck trying to live a long happy life after one goes around killing or robbing. One's deeds do have a habit of catching up to them.
  • Paine
    694

    I agree that there is a lot of emphasis on the righteous getting help when needed. The greater part of the book of Job is devoted to whether Job can know his status in that regard by himself. His 'friends' keep telling him he must have sinned. The wager is on whether that kind of self-knowledge is alive or only an illusion of good fortune.
  • Moses
    191


    I read book of Job as a theodicy. It seeks to answer the question of why bad things happen to good people. Job is righteous, yet misfortune befalls him. The answer, given by God, points at humanity's limited knowledge and thus inability to judge. It is poetry.
  • Paine
    694

    I understand your view. My comments are a challenge to it. Perhaps a topic for a separate conversation.
  • ThinkOfOne
    124



    Any given passage from the gospel preached by Jesus needs to be understood within the context of the entirety of the gospel preached by Jesus.
    Seems like you've taken Matthew 6:25-34 out of context of the entirety of the gospel preached by Jesus and decided that what you'd like to think about that passage is the "real gospel".

    Keep in mind that Jesus came to bring the unrighteous to righteousness.
    The subtext for Matthew 6:25-34 is that Jesus is telling the unrighteous that transforming themselves into righteous individuals needs to be their one and only priority. They shouldn't be concerned about anything else. They concern themselves with the wrong things. It's part of a recurring theme.
    It's akin to telling a heroin addict that getting clean needs to be their one and only priority. They shouldn't be concerned about anything else.

    The core of the gospel preached by Jesus is contained in the parables, explanations of the parables, the Sermon on the Mount, passages where Jesus explicitly describes what is required to receive "eternal life" / "salvation" and passages where Jesus explicitly describes the Kingdom and what living in the Kingdom entails. In short, passages where Jesus is explicitly preaching the vision of His gospel.
    The above passages can be found in the words attributed to Jesus from the beginning of His ministry through His crucifixion as presented in the "four gospels".
  • Moses
    191


    Gotcha. Now I understand what you're saying. Yeah, I would need to dig into Job again to answer your question better, but thanks for giving me a reason to give Job another go. Definitely a separate conversation.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    Initially when I read the Gospels I thought of JC as a nihilist in this sense i.e. this world doesn't matter, it's all about the next.

    But upon further scrutiny Jesus logic dictates that this life matters immensely because it determines where one ends up.
    Moses

    Where will one end up? The messianic promise in for the kingdom of heaven on earth. It is "at hand" or "near," but it has been over 2,000 years and it is still not here. Why should we think it will come?

    Good luck trying to live a long happy life after one goes around killing or robbing.Moses

    I prefer Socrates' solution from the Apology. We do not know what happens at death. If there are rewards and punishments then the just will be rewarded and need not fear punishment. If there is nothing beyond death then it does not makes sense to live this life in the expectation of another. But here again the just life is best.

    But in the Republic there is the challenge of "perfect injustice". One who is perfectly unjust will get away with being unjust because everyone will be fooled and regard him as perfectly just. He will enjoy a reputation for being just, while someone who is just may be accused and suffer from a reputation of being unjust.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    The wager is on whether that kind of self-knowledge is alive or only an illusion of good fortune.Paine

    I see the wager somewhat differently. The adversary (the satan) says:

    Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (1:10-11)

    The claim is that it is because of his good fortune he is blameless and upright, and that if he were to suffer he would no longer be so. God accepts the wager and permits the adversary to inflict Job.

    Job's friends, on the other hand, take the opposite view, they claim that he must not be blameless because if he was he would not suffer. We know, however, that he is blameless. Ostensibly we know why he suffers, to test the adversary's theory by testing Job.

    Job does not know about this wager and challenges God. God's answer is that he would not understand. While I am sympathetic to the idea that we do not know why things happen as they do, the more troubling question is why God would permit the adversary to do what he did. This is a challenge Job could not raise, but we can. In not understanding God's will we also do not understand His justice, which seems in this case to be injustice. In addition, not being able to understand the reason why things happen as they do seems to be because the are without reason. There is no good reason why God would enter into the wager and allow this to happen. Throughout all this Job remains faithful to God while God is not faithful to Job. A pious reading is that Job has the kind of faith we should all aspire to. But my impious, adversarial reading is that Job's faith is unreasonable.

    To anticipate the obvious objection, yes this is not meant to be taken literally, but we should take the story on its own terms. These things happen in the story and if we are to understand the story we must attend to what happens in the story.
  • Moses
    191
    Where will one end up? The messianic promise in for the kingdom of heaven on earth. It is "at hand" or "near," but it has been over 2,000 years and it is still not here. Why should we think it will come?Fooloso4


    I'm talking about the afterlife or the fate of the soul.

    But here again the just life is best.Fooloso4

    Sure, but what does that mean? The Ancient Greeks apparently had no issues killing disabled babies or sending off boys to be "mentored" by older men. Compared to the teachings of the Torah and Jesus my opinion of the ancient Greeks is fairly low morally. I'm open to having that position challenged. It has been some time since I've read the Greeks. You just see this sort of deliberate, powerful goodness in ancient Jewish texts that unabashedly advocates for the poor, the widow, the orphan that I just never picked up with the Greeks. Moses is disabled and the dialogue on that issue is beautiful.
  • Paine
    694
    We know, however, that he is blameless.Fooloso4
    We are told that is the case. His 'friends' doubt it. How does Job know they are wrong? Is that a keeping of faith or a better understanding of what righteousness is like?
  • Possibility
    2.7k
    Job does not know about this wager and challenges God. God's answer is that he would not understand. While I am sympathetic to the idea that we do not know why things happen as they do, the more troubling question is why God would permit the adversary to do what he did. This is a challenge Job could not raise, but we can. In not understanding God's will we also do not understand His justice, which seems in this case to be injustice. In addition, not being able to understand the reason why things happen as they do seems to be because the are without reason. There is no good reason why God would enter into the wager and allow this to happen. Throughout all this Job remains faithful to God while God is not faithful to Job. A pious reading is that Job has the kind of faith we should all aspire to. But my impious, adversarial reading is that Job's faith is unreasonable.

    To anticipate the obvious objection, yes this is not meant to be taken literally, but we should take the story on its own terms. These things happen in the story and if we are to understand the story we must attend to what happens in the story.
    Fooloso4

    But it seems to me that you’re personifying in order to make this query - a character even in a story does not imply personification or being in the sense that we, Job or his friends are beings, much less imply human motivation or morality. Neither God nor the adversary are temporally or physically located characters, and it’s this aspect of their characters that is described in God’s answer to Job. The intentionality of either character is interpreted by this limited early experience of humanity and language - the apparent ‘wager’ is a description for literary purposes, and to assume it as actual or ‘happening’ is to make the same error as Job’s friends in taking convention to be truth. The story is an heuristic device.

    I find that the majority of the bible is an attempt to describe extra-dimensional aspects of human experience - that is, atemporal (eternal or potential) and/or non-physical (intangible or ethereal). The words and even the story don’t matter so much as understanding the human experience to which they refer. It’s similar to the way we generate a 3D render by the relation of change between multiple 2D images, angles, etc. You can’t understand a 3D render without this 4D awareness of change/time, and you can’t understand the story of Job without this 5D sense of atemporality.

    So, no - there is no good reason why God would enter into such a wager, and yes - Job’s faith is unreasonable. But anyone who considers or expects faith, or God for that matter, to be reasonable, is missing the point of Job, and then entire biblical record. It’s not about understanding God in terms of will or justice, but about recognising the extra-dimensional aspect of this relationship between God and humanity. The way I see it, understanding requires more than reason.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    I'm talking about the afterlife or the fate of the soul.Moses

    Yes, I know. The problem is, what is the real meaning of the afterlife according to the gospels? Things are not as clear as you might think. In Matthew the kingdom of heaven on earth. Some believed in bodily resurrection, while others believed in the resurrection of the soul, and still others did not make this division, it was the person that was resurrected.

    Sure, but what does that mean? The Ancient Greeks apparently had no issues killing disabled babies or sending off boys to be "mentored" by older men.Moses

    Plato was not the Ancient Greeks. In the Republic we find his most sustained discussion of justice. I will not go into it here. I will only point out that at the center of the dialogue devoted to the question of what justice is Socrates talks about the turning of the soul to truth illuminated by the Good.

    In Plato's Phaedo we find the dualism of body and soul and the afterlife of the soul that became enormously influential for Christian ideas of the afterlife.

    MosesMoses

    Let's look at what happened when Moses brought down the second set of tablets:

    Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me." And all the Levites rallied to him.Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.'" The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.Then Moses said, "You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day." (Exodus 32:25-29)
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    How does Job know they are wrong? Is that a keeping of faith or a better understanding of what righteousness is like?Paine

    He does not say that they are wrong. He does not claim to be blameless.

    He challenges Eliphaz the Temanite:

    Teach me, and I will be quiet;
    show me where I have been wrong.

    Is there any wickedness on my lips?
    Can my mouth not discern malice? (6:24-30)

    In the next chapter he asks God:

    If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
    you who see everything we do?
    Why have you made me your target?
    Have I become a burden to you?
    Why do you not pardon my offenses
    and forgive my sins? (7:20-21)

    I am not sure about the distinction you make between a keeping of faith and an understanding of righteousness.
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    But it seems to me that you’re personifying in order to make this query - a character even in a story does not imply personification or being in the sense that we, Job or his friends are beings, much less imply human motivation or morality. Neither God nor the adversary are temporally or physically located charactersPossibility

    I think it is rather the case that you are imposing assumptions on the text. In my opinion, as a general principle of interpretation, the attempt must be made to understand the story on its own terms. Is there any indication that the author(s) of the story do not mean that they are temporally or physically located characters? See, for example, Francesca Stavrakopoulou, "God: An Anatomy". The ancient peoples of the Levant did think of their gods as temporally or physically located characters with intentions, desires, and emotions.

    The story is an heuristic device.Possibility

    And how can we learn from it if, for example, the wager is only an

    apparent ‘wager’Possibility
    ?

    In the story the wager was not an "apparent wager". A wager was made. If we are to understand the story then we must accept that in the story a wager was made. To read a novel and point out that the things that happen in the novel did not actually happen is pointless.
  • Moses
    191
    Yes, I know. The problem is, what is the real meaning of the afterlife according to the gospels?Fooloso4


    Maybe there's a resurrection, maybe there's heaven/hell, the key idea is that the righteous and wicked will be judged accordingly at some point. The idea of an "accounting" is described in Gen 9, presumably one which occurs after death. I don't see how a just God can exist in the absence of some sort of accounting.

    Plato was not the Ancient Greeks.Fooloso4

    I'm curious as to why Plato isn't ancient Greek.

    Christian ideas are many. Christianity is designed to spread so needless ton say it would become enmeshed in the cultures and histories of the civilizations to where it spread.

    Let's look at what happened when Moses brought down the second set of tablets:Fooloso4

    Sure, and this is a recurring theme in the OT: People of Israel stray by worshipping other Gods, the hand comes down!

    Re Moses: I'm referring to the beautiful dialogue on disability that occurs in Exodus 4 where God affirms disability instead of treating it as a deficiency. It is a very advanced view that advocates a healthy view of disability. It is wonderful that the mythology of the Jews would choose a disabled person as their main prophet and his partnership with Aaron signifies a union between abled and disabled.
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    On the contrary, the (canonical) Gospels are statements for nihilism insofar as they instruct us to prepare for "the resurrection" and "end of days" which, as Nietzche points out, places all value in "the afterlife" at the expense of completely devaluing – nihilating – this life, this world, nature. In other words, 'our (your) existence here and now is meaningless in comparison to the existence to come.' Escape from "existential angst" by denying, rather than affirming, existence – how the Shepherd pacifies the sheep into bleeting happily on their way to slaughter. :mask:180 Proof

    :up:

    This, in my humble opinion, boils down to gambling (à la Pascal's wager). The stake: This life (low value). The prize: Heaven (high value). Many people buy lotteries and this proves my point. In considering this life to be low value, religion is nihilistic. In considering the afterlife to be high value, it isn't nihilistic. If I reject silver, it may seem I'm not greedy, but if I do it so that I can get gold, I'm avarice incarnate! :chin:
  • Fooloso4
    3.7k
    IMHO the specifics don't matter too much.Moses

    What I was responding to is this:

    But upon further scrutiny Jesus logic dictates that this life matters immensely because it determines where one ends up.Moses

    It may be that the specifics of an afterlife don't matter too much, but whether or not there is an afterlife does. But logic does not dictate that there is an afterlife. It is because we do not know that there are no agreed upon specifics. In my opinion, logic dictates that we should not live in accordance with something that may not be. That this life matters immensely because for all we know there is only this life.

    I'm curious as to why Plato isn't ancient Greek.Moses

    Plato was an ancient Greek. He was not "the ancient Greeks", any more than you are the contemporary Americans or Europeans or Chinese. Your views need not be the same as those of where you are from. In the case of Plato they were not.

    I've considered his doctrine of forms to be a bit ableistMoses

    Plato did not have a doctrine of forms. The Forms are identified in the Phaedo as hypothetical. They are the result of what Socrates calls his second sailing.

    I'm referring to the beautiful dialogue on disability that occurs in Exodus 4 where God affirms disability instead of treating it as a deficiency.Moses

    Does he? God acknowledges the deficiency and says:

    I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.(4:15-16)

    It is wonderful that the mythology of the Jews would choose a disabled person as their main prophet and his partnership with Aaron signifies a union between abled and disabled.Moses

    I read this in light of the question of authority, who is to lead the people. See Numbers 12. One aspect of this theme is the relation of brothers and birthright. Traditionally it is the older brother who inherits the birthright, but in several stories it is the younger brother, who by one means or another, takes the birthright. Aaron was the older brother. Even though Moses had a speech impediment and Aaron speaks well, Aaron plays a subordinate and spoke on Moses' behalf as his assistant. This is related to the question of the authority of the Levites and Aaron the Levite (4:14) The union of Moses and Aaron seems to be a symbolic representation of the union of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The differing beliefs were united. The gods of their fathers were identified as the same god. See the question regarding god's name.
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