• RogueAI
    2k
    But if you are familiar with the four canonical gospels then you must be aware of when Jesus instructed his disciples to sell their cloaks to buy swords (Luke 22:36);Leontiskos

    What does Jesus say when the sword is actually used?
    "Those who live by the sword die by the sword."
    A pacifist could go around armed, presumably to scare off attackers. They just won't actually use the weapon on someone.

    " or when Jesus made a whip out of cords to drive the money changers out of the Temple (John 2:15-17)"

    Yes, Jesus has a temper tantrum and tosses some money-changers out. That doesn't negate all his other teachings on non-violence. That's the human side of him coming out.

    ; or when Jesus foretells that, "the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful" (Luke 12:46, NRSV);

    "But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers."

    More "live by the sword die by the sword". If you beat people, you'll come to a violent end.

    or when Jesus, speaking about a grievous sinner, says, "it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea."

    Jesus is using the imagery of a particularly nasty death to make a point.
  • Leontiskos
    703
    A pacifist could around armed, presumably to scare off attackers. They just won't actually use the weapon on someone.RogueAI

    So then you think it is moral to threaten to do things that you believe to be immoral, which is a difficult position to maintain.

    Yes, Jesus has a temper tantrum and tosses some money-changers out. That doesn't negate all his other teachings on non-violence. That's the human side of him coming out.RogueAI

    There is nothing in the text to support your thesis that this event indicates a failure or moment of weakness on Jesus' part. On the contrary.

    More "live by the sword die by the sword". If you beat people, you'll come to a violent end.RogueAI

    Except if you understand these parables you will understand that "the master" is the God of Israel, and therefore the violence is not only approved but it is also a foretelling (or at the very least, a severe warning about what may happen).

    Jesus is using the imagery of a particularly nasty death to make a point.RogueAI

    No, the point is that what awaits him will be much worse than this particularly nasty way to die, and Jesus approves both of what awaits him and of that which he proposes.

    Pacifists don't talk this way. The examples I gave only scratch the surface.
  • RogueAI
    2k
    It seems to me that at the very least Jesus was a deeply complex figure, and that simple interpretations therefore cannot stand.Leontiskos

    It's also possible his core message was non-violence and some of the other stuff was lost in translation or just made up. Did Jesus actually whip the money-changers? Did he maybe knock over a table and the story got embellished?

    I'm not Christian. The anti-violence stuff has the ring of truth to me. A lot of the other stuff was probably made up or garbled from what Jesus originally said. There are pacifist Christians who could do a better job of arguing it than me.
  • RogueAI
    2k
    Pacifists don't talk this way.Leontiskos

    But they do talk this way:

    "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

    "If a soldier forces you to walk with him one mile, go with him two. Give to anyone who asks you for something. Don't refuse to give to anyone who wants to borrow from you."

    "Then said Jesus unto him, “Put up again thy sword into his place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."


    "“Do not resist an evil person.”"

    So what's a Christian to do? How do you reconcile that with the other stuff? What do you think Jesus was really saying here? I think these bolded passages trump the violent imagery and parables.

    So then you think it is moral to threaten to do things that you believe to be immoral, which is a difficult thing to maintain.Leontiskos

    Not at all. I don't think it's immoral to threaten Russia with nukes. I think it would be immoral to destroy their country if they launch against us. The threat itself produces a positive outcome. I also don't think wearing a sword is a threat. Someone could take it that way, but that's on them.
  • BC
    12.7k
    What is your purpose in this thread? After one has read the Bible, studied theology and history, and attempted to follow this or that set of teachings (or not), one is left with the option to believe in God, Jesus, and all the rest--OR NOT.

    If you opt to not believe, then much of the teaching by Jesus and his Church are likely not going to make a whole lot of sense to you. If you opt to believe, it isn't that everything will fall into place and make perfect sense. If you believe you are saved from hellfire and damnation by God's grace, and you do the best you can to emulate the life of Jesus, then that's the end of it.
  • RogueAI
    2k
    There is nothing in the text to support your thesis that this event indicates a failure or moment of weakness on Jesus' part. On the contrary.Leontiskos

    Why not? Jesus had his moment of doubt. Why not his moment of anger?
  • RogueAI
    2k
    Except if you understand these parables you will understand that "the master" is the God of Israel, and therefore the violence is not only approved but it is also a foretelling (or at the very least, a severe warning about what may happen).Leontiskos

    Jesus was talking to people who lived in a violent world. He couldn't come across as a total pussy. He had to meet them where they were at, to some extent.
  • RogueAI
    2k
    Except if you understand these parables you will understand that "the master" is the God of Israel, and therefore the violence is not only approved but it is also a foretelling (or at the very least, a severe warning about what may happen).Leontiskos

    Oh. Well, the god of the old testament is incredibly violent, so that's that's to be expected.
  • FrancisRay
    379
    Have you read the Baghavad Gita? It answers your question, and in a way that Jesus does not seem to contradict.
  • Average
    469


    I have read the baghavad gita but I don't remember the whole thing.
  • FrancisRay
    379
    I have read the baghavad gita but I don't remember the whole thing.Average
    .

    Much of it is about the difficult decision of whether or not to take up arms, and it's a deep analysis.
  • unenlightened
    8.4k
    I'm not sure what the question is, and I'm even less sure what a Christian is. But here is an answer anyway.

    Violence is an enactment of malice. For example, one might break a window of someone's house in order to annoy, threaten, or punish them, or simply careless of such consequences, and such would be an act of violence. But one might break the same window in order to allow the inmates to escape from a fire, and such would be an act of love.

    Or if a child wanders into the path of a speeding lorry, a physically forceful intervention, even one that causes some pain or injury in order to save a life would be an act of love and not of violence.

    I do not know how to calculate the misery inflicted on the poor worshipers by the exploitation by the temple money-changers compared to the misery they suffered by having their tables overturned and being whipped by Jesus. But to me, to the extent that there is a Christian message, the facts do not matter, the lesson is that violence is a state of mind, that is the opposite of love, and that non-violence does not preclude vigorous and forceful action to prevent harm to others, but does preclude harming others as the motive for action.

    Perhaps it is better to shoot a pedophile, or put a millstone round his neck, than to let him abuse children unrestrained. Or perhaps there are other ways to restrain him. One might believe that mercy killing can, in extremis, be an act of love; but usually, alas, I would suspect malicious revenge.
  • Angelo Cannata
    305

    Some criterions may be helpful for this problem and discussion.

    The Bible is not a 100% faithful recording of what really happened, what people really said and thought. This applies to the Gospels and to Jesus as well. As a consequence, there isn't much point in quoting this or that text of the Bible, because all those texts are already interpretations; then we interpret them, doing interpretations of interpretations.

    Jesus was not a maths theorem, nor the Bible is. There is no surprise that the Bible is full of a lot of contradictions; we should add to these contradictions the contradictions that are already contained in our thoughts when we try to interpret the Bible.

    This means that this discussion should be made while being aware that we just try to build humble interpretations, without expecting these interpretations to be 100% free from contradictions. You cannot build a perfectly consistent theological system: it is just impossible.
  • FrancisRay
    379
    You cannot build a perfectly consistent theological system: it is just impossible.Angelo Cannata

    I feel this is a vital point. By the same token, one cannot build a perfectly consistent materialistic system. These things do not work in metaphysics. They are found to give rise to contradictions.

    I'd also agree about Jesus and the Bible. A literal reading kills the message and makes a mockery of it. One of the problems, it seems to me, is that many Christians today regard the Roman church's interpretation as reliable. They forget that prior to the third century Jesus was given a quite different interpretation
  • Average
    469
    it is just impossible.Angelo Cannata

    Why?
  • Angelo Cannata
    305
    Because the very concepts of "perfect" and "consistent" are far from being perfect and consistent, because we are unable to assess them without using our brain, and our brain is unable to give foundations, guarantee of perfection or consistency, about itself.
  • 180 Proof
    13.2k

    In truth, there was only one christian and he died on the cross. — Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Tom Storm
    7.6k
    The Bible is not a 100% faithful recording of what really happened, what people really said and thought.Angelo Cannata

    What percentage is faithful then? 60%, 40%, 2%? And the percentage that is not faithful - how does this reinterpret or efface the percentage which is? What is a Christian to do?

    I'd also agree about Jesus and the Bible. A literal reading kills the message and makes a mockery of it.FrancisRay

    Amen to that.

    One of my favourite Christian writers, Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong (deseased) puts it like this:

    “Unless biblical literalism is challenged overtly in the Christian church itself, it will, in my opinion, kill the Christian faith. It is not just a benign nuisance that afflicts Christianity at its edges; it is a mentality that renders the Christian faith unbelievable to an increasing number of the citizens of our world.

    - John Shelby Spong Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy:

    But let it be clearly stated, the Gospels are not in any literal sense holy, they are not accurate, and they are not to be confused with reality. They are rather beautiful portraits painted by first-century Jewish artists, designed to point the reader toward that which is in fact holy, accurate, and real. The Gospels represent that stage in the development of the faith story in which ecstatic exclamation begins to be placed into narrative form.”

    ― John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile
  • FrancisRay
    379
    “Unless biblical literalism is challenged overtly in the Christian church itself, it will, in my opinion, kill the Christian faith. It is not just a benign nuisance that afflicts Christianity at its edges; it is a mentality that renders the Christian faith unbelievable to an increasing number of the citizens of our world.

    - John Shelby Spong Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy:

    It seems we're on the same page, for this para sums up my view precisely. Christianity is dead if it does not wake up to this issue. The problem is, it cannot change unless it returns to its mystic roots, and Christians I know tend to be horror-struck by this idea.
  • Tom Storm
    7.6k
    Father RIchard Rohr is interesting. Of course much of the church finds him boarding on the heretical.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    1.5k


    Biblical literalism is a vocal minority view, strongest in American Evangelical Protestantism, which is a small minority of the faithful no matter how much it tends to deny this fact to itself.

    Mainline Protestants and Catholics are still citing Bonaventure's six-fold, 7 step, 3 mode journey of the Mind (mens) into God, moving outward to God's vestiges in the book of nature (Francis of Assisi, brother son and sister moon), then inward to psychological reflection (Augustine), and finally upwards (Denis).

    Boehme is less common, but still explored by some Lutherans. Augustine and his mysticism is everywhere in the Latin Rite, and has even had a resurgence in the Orthodox churches. Denis still suffuses the Eastern Tradition. Granted, these have their own ultra conservative movements, but they rely less on literalism.

    Anti-naturalism seems to be a more an unresolved issue for the small subset of American churches that has begun rapidly disintegrating due to culture war politics, hemorrhaging members since 2010 and seeing their median age shoot upwards like a rocket. It's not that the other sects have completely resolved this issue, but they have been working on it for a long time and have not been afraid to get their hands dirty doing metaphysics. They're also less cut off from the Churches roots in some of the greatest thinkers in the philosophical tradition, and can regularly draw on minds like Augustine or Eckhart for ammunition.


    If you opt to not believe, then much of the teaching by Jesus and his Church are likely not going to make a whole lot of sense to you. If you opt to believe, it isn't that everything will fall into place and make perfect sense.


    It doesn't make "perfect sense." Faith is a journey. Even Peter doubts when Christ allows him to walk on water and begins to sink. Only Christ grabbing him saves him. Likewise, he draws a sword to protect Jesus even at the end when the authorities come for him, and Jesus must rebuke him then. But then we see him finally understanding and mirroring Christ in Acts, as with the raising of Tabitha. There, it is the people who do not yet understand, they call on Peter thinking he is special, not realizing the Spirit "shall be poured out on all flesh." (Joel 2/Acts 2)

    What church or synagogue isn't filled with debate? What religious life isn't filled with doubts and seasons? Israel itself means "one who wrestles with God." Jacob sees a ladder ascending to the heavens not an escalator
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    1.5k


    Perhaps it is strange to say that men and women who willingly faced death were cowards but perhaps someone like Nietzsche would say that this is proof of their rejection of life.

    The problem with Nietzsche's philosophy becomes obvious when you seek to generalize it. How are we all to become overmen, revaluing all values. Cannot one man adopt values such that they find it good to deprive other's of freedom? So then, it seems that if we have some successful overmen, nothing precludes most men being thralls, unfree, slaves. And indeed Nietzsche seems to allow this. Part of the conceit of reading Nietzsche is that the reader is part of a spiritual elite, a technique utilized later by Evola and Guenon and punched up by shallow, dismissive rants against the whole prior corpus of philosophy.

    The question then is, is this the ideal solution? The many unfree so that the free can be free? Further, can those who are free in such a system derive recognition from their inferiors given that they have been reduced to an "other?" Or have we just recreated Hegel's Lord/Bondsman dialectical? Is the overman unable to be truly free because he cannot adopt a view that would reduce his status vis-á-vis the masses without risking his overman status? Is he like the Romans of Augustine's City of God, unable to relinquish violent rule less it be turned on them by new tyrants ready to fill the vacuum?

    Why was it acceptable for God to wage war against the wicked in heaven and somehow impermissible for his faithful son and servants here on earth? Is it a double standard or is it something deeper? Maybe Christ didn't have a dog in the fights that happen down here on earth but what are we to do? Should we fight when faced with an evil enemy like Micheal or should we do as christ did and lay down our lives for the ones we love because we are taught by him to love our enemies?

    Christianity is, in its core, a religion about overcoming the world through internal transformation, not through Manichean struggle between good and evil.

    "Vengeance is mine, I shall repay," says the LORD in Deuteronomy. It is not the Christians duty to fight. What can man add to God if God wants to destroy something? Is God weak that he cannot accomplish his own aims? Have "[we] and arm like God. Or can [we] thunder with a voice like His?" as God asks Job. Can we "then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, And array yourself with glory and beauty. Then I will admit that your own hand can save you."

    But the Christian is not meant to judge. I would argue that they are asked to judge no one, to earnestly hope the ALL are saved.

    "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

    But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." - Mathew 6: 14-15

    ----

    I think I can best answer your questions by showing how I think freedom is essential to the message of the Faith.

    Freedom leads to happiness because a free man will not freely choose to be unhappy.

    This does not mean we will always be ecstatic about everything we do. Being free to become certain things, to take on certain roles, means being free to accept the duties that come with these roles. If we are to become a “good doctor,” a “nurturing father,” or a “loving husband,” there are surely unpleasant things we must do and pleasing things we must give up. We do not have to find pleasure in all that these duties entail to find happiness in our roles and responsibilities.

    Freedom requires both negative freedom, freedom from external constraints, and positive freedom, freedom to become what one authentically desires to be and to control one’s own drives and desires.

    The Role of Positive Freedom

    Of these two, positive freedom is harder to foster. You need self-discipline to get what you want in this world. Most self-help work stops at this point. But more important still is the freedom over one’s base instincts, the ability to want what you want to want. Self-control alone is not freedom, it can become its own sort of life-denying slavery. Freedom is self-control directed towards what Harry Frankfurt call’s “second order volitions,” things that you “want to want to do” in essence.

    Freedom then, is not easy to achieve. Like Saint Paul, we must be “at war with the members of our body.” On all sides we are driven on by desire, instinct, and drive. We are free only when we fathom what we want to do, why we want to do it, and act in accordance with our reason. This is why Leibniz thought the Principle of Sufficient Reason, that idea that “everything happens for a causal reason,” in a word, “determinism,” was prerequisite for freedom, not antithetical to it.

    For us to be free actions must have defined consequences and we must want to do what we want for a reason. A world where our actions aren’t deterministic is simply a world where our actions are arbitrary. Arbitrariness isn’t freedom.

    Free men are like Hegel’s state, “act[ing] in accordance with known ends,” and “know[ing] what it wills.”

    Reason then, is essential, as is “reason-out-in-the-world,” “natural law,” cause, Logos. As Paul says in Romans 7, he dies a death of autonomy and personhood when sin lives through him, when he is driven on by desire and instinct. He then talks about how he is resurrected in this life, to personhood by Christ, the Logos. Christ, who casts out the “legion within,” the demons that strive to control us, to rob us of our freedom.

    So then, we must develop reason, but also authenticity. This is what the existentialists get right. One must discover their true selves. Where the existentialists err is in elevating the Copernican Principle into a dogma and denying the Logos, claiming the universe is absurd, even as the Logos burns bright in the order within all things.

    The Importance of Social Freedom

    We are also social creatures. We compete with one another, even as we compete for one another. And so freedom also has a social element. Freedom requires a state that promotes freedom, on which shapes individuals interests such that they have an incentive to promote each other’s development and freedom.

    This is Hegel’s insight and vision. We progress towards this goal via the dialectical evolution of history, a sort of selection process where states that promote freedom survive because they promote human welfare, technological innovation, a greater ability to muster resources, and because they will be defended with greater zeal by their citizens. If thinking of "natural selection," in terms of intentionality bothers you, simply think of "selection," at work in Hebbian "fire together, wire together," neuronal development, where children lose most of their neurons as function is sculpted through selection, a process that both involves and causes intentionally in patterns of cyclic feedback.

    The Essence of Freedom is What is Essential to It
    Freedom then, includes duty, self-control, knowledge — gnosis.

    We have a duty to be free. This is why criminals have a right to be punished. We do not punish merely to deter crime. To do this is to treat another human being like an animal to be domesticated.

    Freedom requires knowledge of nature, and so we must study the sciences. We are natural creatures and must understand nature to understand ourselves. Likewise, we must master nature, “subdue it and have dominion over it,” in order to enact our will.

    Freedom requires knowledge of the Logos, and so we must study philosophy, logic, and mathematics.

    Freedom requires knowledge of the self, and so we must study psychology, the great works of art, etc.

    And as we drain the Cup of Gnosis we shall find three things at the bottom:

    The external word, the symbols through which they are known, and the I that is ourselves. And these three we shall know to be in an image of three others: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit reflected in the very necessary nature of coherent being.

    And then happy consciousness shall give praise to that which formed it, chanting “glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, both now and then, and on to ages and ages, amen.”

    We are the midwives of the Absolute. We are Mary, the theotokos, giving birth to the Body of Christ, his Church. As the Blessed Virgin served to create his first physical body, so we now construct his immanent body through world history. We come together to form the Church and strive to fulfill its Marian mission of the creation of the Body of Christ (in this world, as an emergent, dynamical, historical process)

    And yet the Church is also the Bride of Christ, of whom the Canticle of Canticles speaks. This is a mystery, but one we can fathom. For the Bride and the Bridegroom are to become one flesh, one body. And so we are the immanent body forming in this world. This is what is part of what is meant by the “Kingdom being near.”

    And yet the Church is also the Bride of Christ, of whom the Canticle of Canticles speaks. This is a mystery, but one we can fathom. For the Bride and the Bridegroom are to become one flesh, one body. And so we are the immanent body forming in this world. This is what is part of what is meant by the “Kingdom being near.”

    And so, we find our authentic place in the world. A Christian man is lord of all, subject to none. And yet he is servant to all, lording over none. This is the mystery, just as the Gospel is vast and concise, as Saint Denis says.

    Thus, the Faith is not world denying, rather it denies the inessential, seeking freedom perfected. The most direct translation of the Lord's prayer would be "give us our super-essential bread." It is the super-essential then that is sought.

    Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new.
    Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you!
    In my weakness, I ran after the beauty of the things you have made.
    You were with me, and I was not with you.
    The things you have made kept me from you – the things which would have no being unless they existed in you!
    You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness.
    You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness.
    You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you.
    I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you.
    You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace...

    You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you

    -Saint Augustine of Hippo
  • Angelo Cannata
    305
    What percentage is faithful then? 60%, 40%, 2%? And the percentage that is not faithful - how does this reinterpret or efface the percentage which is? What is a Christian to do?Tom Storm

    Once we realize that the Bible cannot be considered entirely faithful to historical facts, the next step is to analyze it, word by word, sentence by sentence, and study which things can be considered true and which ones cannot. Moreover, we need to consider the different perspectives from which what is true can be considered: for example, there is a difference between historical truths and theological truths.
    This mix of truth and non-truth is not a problem for historians, archaeologists, scholars, scientists: for these people this mix is very normal in everything they study. Believers are those who most feel the problem of truth in the Bible. Believers have built theologies to explain why the Bible, that from their perspective is God’s Word, contains inaccuracies. One easy explanation is that God, in revealing himself, decided to use, as instruments, sinners, as those who wrote the Bible were, people with all their imperfections, problems, defects. In other words, theologically, the Bible is a particular example of God deciding to become human, flesh, mixing himself with the flaws and imperfections of humanity. At this point the hard problem is: how do we find what is true in the Bible? The problem is not so hard about historical truth; the hard problem is about theological truth. We can quickly say that this problem has never been solved. In the Roman Catholic context, the Church decided to believe that the Holy Spirit guides it in keeping and elaborating the right doctrine. The problem is that this theology is actually a vicious circle: the Church believes that the Holy Spirit assists it in keeping itself in the truth; who established that the Holy Spirit does this? The Church! So, the Church founds the action of the Holy Spirit, that founds the action of the Church. It is easy to perceive this circle like a trick just to hide an unsolved problem. Protestantism decided to believe that there is not an official Church in charge of establishing the truth, because God reveals himself not just to the high hierarchy of the Church, but to every believer. As a result, Protestantism has ended into a scattering of a lot of sub-churches, each one with its own specific doctrines. Additionally, we should consider that the problem of truth has to be examined in comparison with the philosophies of truth.
  • FrancisRay
    379

    Thanks for the interesting overview.

    It doesn't make "perfect sense." Faith is a journey.

    It makes sense to me. What does not make sense is the idea that faith is preferable to knowledge, or that knowledge cannot replace faith. This is the anti-mystical idea that for me undermines the credibility of the church's dogma and alienates modern thinkers.

    Learning anything requires a certain degree of faith but the idea of learning what must always remain merely a faith, and is merely a faith even to those who teach it, will be unappealing to a rational person.
  • FrancisRay
    379
    ↪FrancisRay
    Father RIchard Rohr is interesting. Of course much of the church finds him boarding on the heretical.
    Tom Storm

    He is profoundly heretical, but seems spot on to me. I suspect that if Christianity survives for another century it will because of people like him.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    1.5k


    It makes sense to me. What does not make sense is the idea that faith is preferable to knowledge, or that knowledge cannot replace faith. This is the anti-mystical idea that for me undermines the credibility of the church's dogma and alienates modern thinkers.

    Learning anything requires a certain degree of faith but the idea of learning what must always remain merely a faith, and is merely a faith even to those who teach it, will be unappealing to a rational person.

    I don't know if that is necessarily a common teaching; certainly, it is not universal. Faith is multifaceted. Do we choose what it is that we believe? To be sure, our beliefs are reinforced by willful acts. E.g., I come to agree with some position in biology through my choice to study it more thoroughly (where I am at with EES actually). But in an important sense, beliefs are beyond our control. My car is blue; I cannot have faith that it is really red. But there is faith that and faith in, the latter being a sort of "moral regard for," and this is more controlled by the will. Notably, the Greek commonly translated a "faith" in Acts and Paul's letters can mean "arguments in favor of."

    The goal is to build up both sorts of faith, through knowledge on the one hand, and experience on the other. Bonaventure mentions "three books," that we learn about God from. The Book of Nature, the books of Holy Scripture, and the Book of Mystical Experience. Jean Gearson, writing late-1300s, puts a more apt label on the mystical experience than William James' more influential effort, which is too focused on "peak experiences," IMO.

    Gearson distinguishes between intellectual knowledge of a person -- the knowledge of the physician and the biographer -- and personal knowledge of that same person -- the knowledge a child or spouse might have. Mystical theology is simply the way we come to know God in that latter way, through experience. No visions or ecstasies required (and this is where people get tripped up). And indeed, many mystics, Thomas Merton, Bernard of Clairvaux, etc. do not seem to have had any Jamesian "peak experiences," (while others well worth studying, like Saint Hildegard, the Sybil of the Rhine, obviously do).

    It's worth noting that when speaking of supernatural gifts that might strengthen faith, Paul says:

    Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

    For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;

    but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.

    When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

    For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

    - Saint Paul of Tarsus - First Epistle to the Corinthians 13:8-13

    Signs and wonders strengthen faith, but Christ tells Thomas in John 20 "because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." Similar points are made at other points, for example, Jesus chides a man in John 4:48, saying "except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." If we are not to see wonders, then our faith must be built up through an intentional search of the "Three Books."

    Knowledge, intellectual ascertainment of Truth, only passes away, only has secondary status, because we come to experience such Truth directly, in a way that is perfectly simple and complete, an unmediated whole, Saint Denis' divine "Darkness Above the Light."

    I think the early Augustine's commentary is instructive here.

    6.13 Reason is the soul’s contemplative gaze. But it does not follow that everyone who contemplates sees. Rightful and perfect contemplation, from which vision follows, is called virtue. For virtue is rightful and perfect reason.But even though the soul may have healthy eyes, the contemplative gaze itself cannot turn toward the light unless these three [virtues] have become permanent: faith by which it believes the reality which it gazes upon can, when seen, make us blessedly happy; hope by which it trusts that it will see if only it contemplates intently; love, by which it yearns to see and to enjoy.Then the vision of God flows from the contemplative gaze. This vision is the true goal of our contemplation, not because the contemplative gaze no longer exists, but because it has nothing further to strive toward...

    7.14 Therefore, let us reflect on whether these three are still necessary once the soul succeeds in seeing (that is, knowing) God. Why should faith be needed since now it sees? Why hope, since it already grasps its hope? But as for love, not only will nothing be taken away, but rather much will be added. For when the soul sees that unique and true Beauty, it will love all the more deeply. But unless it fixes its eye upon it with surpassing love and never withdraws its gaze, it will not be able to continue in that most blessed vision.

    -Saint Augustine of Hippo - The Soliloquies
  • FrancisRay
    379


    You and I have different understandings, but they're in the same ballpark and I don't; want to argue.

    I'd just note that when I use the word 'knowledge;' I don;t mean beliefs. I mean Being, 'realisation, , 'knowledge by identity' or what Merrill Wolff calls 'introception'. .

    To be pedantic. the 'peak experience' you speak of would be a misnomer in my view, since true knowledge would lie beyond the experience-experiencer duality. This is not to doubt such experiences, just only the idea that they reach to the peak .Those who reach the true peak like Eckhart and the Buddha tell us the idea of God is a mistake, and in this case 'peak experience' is not a theological phenomenon.

    As for the view of the church on these matters, it it is clearly unsympathetic. Eckhart, was excommunicated and that the gnostic Christianity of the early community was suppressed.around the third century and is now largely unknown to most Christians.

    As you say, many Christians have explored well beyond the confines of faith and dogma. but even so believers are not encouraged to do so. I have a Christian friend who believes both metaphysics and mysticism are the work of the devil. .

    My feeling is that the only way to sort out this muddle is a study of metaphysics. and it no coincidence that A. N..Whitehead characterizes the dogmatic literalist Christianity he knew as a '#religion in search of a metaphysic'. .
  • Paine
    1.7k

    I think Kierkegaard recasts the tension between faith and reason through looking at what changes our conditions in Philosophical Fragments. Obeying the command to love as laid out in his Works of Love was not a confirmation of a credo as much as it was a manual for change. Sort of a rebuttal to the The Enchiridion by Epictetus.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    1.5k


    "Peak experience," is sort of an anachronism. It's from Maslow, working in the 1960s. It just means a powerful, intense experience that becomes a foundation for identity, defining, and highly memorable — a lens through which the world is viewed. Many mystics describe only a handful of such ecstasies, Boehme for example.

    Eckhart wasn't excommunicated, but his teachings were suppressed (half-heartedly), so you have a point there. However, he was never even officially condemned, just passages from his work. He did have a trail in Germany that tried to condemn him, but as a Benedictine he wasn't under their jurisdiction so it was a bit of an exercise. Only his university in Paris or the Pope could try him, Paris demured. He appealed to Avignon and a Papal committee reviewed his work. They turned up like 126 suspect statements, then dropped all but 28. Eckhart died mid trial, at 67-68, so not uncommon then.

    Normally, the issue would have been dropped but the Pope was facing multiple mystical challenges, particularly a feud with the Franciscans over if Christ and the Apostles owned property, and decided to release a bull condemning some of Eckhart's statements as "error or heresy." Not necessarily heresy. Eckhart himself never really was forced to recant, his recantation, which he gave readily, just says "I reject anyone who misreads my work as not being catholic teaching and orthodox." Funny stuff.

    Really, he was more someone who got caught up in political feuds and a larger wave of, in some cases obviously unorthodox mysticism.

    He was still buried with the full rights and honors of his position and has since been rehabilitated. That so much of his writing survived and that he influenced Boheme, Hegel, etc. so much shows the condemnation didn't really have much influence in the end, people saw it as the political gesture it was.

    Not that the Church wasn't burning people for heresy then, the same Pope who started the inquest on Eckhart had four Franciscans burnt over the question of Christ's poverty around the same time period. It's just that Eckhart's internal looking mysticism never aroused the same political passions.
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