meadow-animals-sheep-wool

The Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies  is a breath of fresh air to those non-believers who wished for a more scholarly approach to religion by atheism. When Richard Dawkins published the popular The God Delusion people on social media were signing up by the droves and were justifiably angry, as the backlash to religious fundamentalism and the terrorist attacks of 911 set off a fire storm of “New Atheism” . As a YouTube content creator it was an amazing time observing such a social movement, after leaving evangelical fundamentalism myself, I almost became an anti-fundamentalist fundamentalist. And nothing said this louder then Dawkins’s description of God in his book The God Delusion. on page 51:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

But the movement lacked serious scholarship. The only people who were translating religion to these “New Atheists” were folks who left belief systems and knew the texts, history, theology, and symbols. I can remember cringing each time I would watch a Thunderfoot video, or see the Brian Sapient of the Rational Response Squad debate. They did very well showing their own audience how they could stomp religious apologists, but their own audience were mostly uneducated about religious history and belief. Even Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris simplified religious metaphors, texts, and interpretations into extremely simplistic terms without even considering their symbolic or cultural value. They had websites devoted to science; but I often wondered why they did not take the time to educate on religious texts, belief, and history. This would put them on the same playing field as the apologists, putting questions to them on theology, morality, and history, and being competent enough that even believers would question the established religious ideas. There was even a backlash for a time against even agnostics, who seen religion as an expression such as art, dance, and music. And even more extreme ideas came from The Amazing Atheist and his failed Atheist Scum United group, that had plans to run believers off social media through trolling.

Instead of educating, New Atheist leaders decided to fan the flames and large portions of non-believers had a fun time giving back to religious fundamentalism what they dealt out to others. But now it seems the play time is over and they appear willing to crack open the books. In order to change fundamentalism you first have to study it and know what it is. One need to dissect it and see what makes it tick. Then work to combat the mechanism you find with less destructive parts, reinterpreting the metaphors and giving new meanings to texts to reclaim them for good. This is how fundamentalism was able to build it’s self , and this is the very way it can be taken down. How did religious literature become kidnapped and held hostage by religious extremists? How are the theological ideas and the interpretation of the metaphors radicalized? How is public opinion, and opinions of believers, forcing the changes being made to religious?

I do not think minds can be changed by name calling and trolling. Nor can it be changed by following some group or atheist rock star. It changes by cracking open the books, reading what the words say and then understanding how the texts are seen by the believers. Then asking intelligent questions in their own language on why they think the way they do and how they came to believe it.

That is what makes the Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies a move in the right direction. Reading it’s goals seem to show that finally there could be an effort made to educate followers on religion and belief and have conversations in a more productive way rather then being the bully. Here are a few goals from the Manifesto out of the eighteen listed:

“Insofar as we believe that religious belief has the potential to incite actions that could ultimately lead to the destruction of our planet, we identify ourselves with what is called “the New Atheism.” We affirm that a Second Wave of the New Atheism exists insofar as that descriptor encompasses self-identified atheist scriptural scholars or scholars of religion who:

  • Are academically trained experts in the study of religion and sacred scriptures (e.g., the Bible, Quran, and any other text deemed sacred on religious grounds);
  • Regard activism as a fundamental orientation of all scholarship insofar they agree with Noam Chomsky’s view that “[i]t is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies”;
  • Uphold and defend freedom of expression;
  • Question the notion that religious thinking is itself good or ethical;
  • Acknowledge that human ethics need not depend on religion;
  • Welcome as wide a diversity of scholars as possible in terms of ethnic self- identification, gender, or sexual orientation;” 

The full manifesto can be read here.

Such goals in my opinion are an excellent start and will go far in educating both believers and non-believers about each other. It also works to dampen the radicalization tendencies on each side. It is also encouraging to note that non-believers are hitting the streets and talking about their views, giving contrast to the street preachers and religious proselytizers. One excellent example of these new forms of outreach is the work of Anthony Magnabosco, who visits university campuses and asks questions on belief, and has videos to train others using a more philosophical approach. It is my hope that many more will come forward with this kind of mind set and maybe make atheism appear more intelligent when it comes to religious topics.

We have not even to risk the adventure alone
for the heroes of all time have gone before us.
The labyrinth is thoroughly known …
we have only to follow the thread of the hero path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God.

And where we had thought to slay another
we shall slay ourselves.
Where we had thought to travel outwards
we shall come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world.” ― Joseph Campbell

Written by A.D. Wayman

Posted by: religionthink | April 29, 2015

Born In The Fury Of God

Nuremberg_chronicles_f_21r

A response to : 4. Homosexuals: Born that Way.

 

In chapter three of the book Fury of God by pastor Jeremy Lundmark we come to the account of Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of those cities found in Genesis chapter nineteen. The whole episode dealing with the cities starts much earlier in Genesis fourteen with the account of the war of the five kings.  As an agnostic reading the good pastor’s book I do not see Sodom’s destruction being related fully to the gay sexual orientation, as the biblical writers would have it, but due to many factors involved. Many times when tribes came on ruins they could not explain, or natural disasters that laid waste to large numbers of peoples, stories would be created on how such things came to be. So at first I would like to lay out some of these ideas, and as pastor Jeremy expects in his book, I will dump a pail of water on this biblical account, diluting it, so that we may find the few gold nuggets buried in the mud. By heavens! Reading about how all the men of the city were  of one uncontrollable gay sexual lust is quite a smear to those cities! Had the author of this text been here today, he would have been a contributor to FOX News and invited on the Sean Hannity show!

In the days of King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim, these kings made war with King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea). Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in the hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the edge of the wilderness; then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and subdued all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar. Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim with King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar, four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way; they also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who lived in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. – Genesis 14:1-7 NRSV.

War in the ancient Near East, as any war, was all slice and dice. Terrible things were done to the enemy, including male rape. From the account we can see how possibly the men of the city believed the two messengers in Lots house to be spies. Worried about another attack and going through another defeat after loosing everything in the last war, they were ready to show the enemy humiliation, and the penalty for spying. Lot would not give them up, and not even his own daughters would serve as the scapegoats. For a more modern account of how such terrible acts come to be, I will direct the reader to the article The Rape of Men: The Darkest Secret of War. By Will Storr, The Guardian, July 16,2011

“You are all spies,” the commander said. “I will show you how we punish spies.” He pointed to Jean Paul. “Remove your clothes and take a position like a Muslim man.” Jean Paul thought he was joking. He shook his head and said: “I cannot do these things.” The commander called a rebel over. Jean Paul could see that he was only about nine years old. He was told, “Beat this man and remove this clothes.” The boy attacked him with his gun butt. Eventually, Jean Paul begged: “Okay, okay. I will take off my clothes.” Once naked, two rebels held him in a kneeling position with his head pushed towards the earth. At this point, Jean Paul breaks off. The shaking in his lip more pronounced than ever, he lowers his head a little further and says: “I am sorry for the things I am going to say now.” The commander put his left hand on the back of his skull and used his right to beat him on the backside “like a horse”.  The rest of the account would not be proper to be put here but I would encourage those who wonder to read the full account for it is most disturbing.

Are folks born with abnormal sexual orientations?  You Bet! In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV, Fourth Edition, 1994, pp. 522-538, the American Psychiatric Association identifies sexual deviations and abnormal sexual behavior known as “Paraphilias”, they list about 21 of them.  I had the privilege of attending the “Sexually Violent Offenders Presentation.” by Roy Hazelwood at Mansfield University November 3, 2005.  It was quite amazing to listen to the retired FBI profiler discuss the offenders and crimes of those who had paraphilias, and commit sexually violent acts. He told the group that such orientations can only be managed and regulated, but never wiped clean or changed. Not all folks with paraphilas commit violent sex crimes, most live their lives as normal law abiding citizens, but practice their particular  paraphilia in a legal fashion behind closed doors or amongst a community of like minded individuals. These  paraphilias are only an issue if folks who practice them break the law.  Some are outlawed.  Others are not. And some who you may sit next to in the pew at church or work with may practice such things, but never tell. You may find the list here.   Also it is important to note that the Jewish Mishna made allowances and rules for the Androgynous.

Another interesting part of the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, was that they were so wicked, the heavenly beings came down from the divine realms to see for themselves. We arrive at the one of the most beautiful accounts in the biblical narrative where Abraham rushes to serve the divine messengers and the Deity, when he simply believes them to be travelers.

“The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on– since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”  Gen 18:1-6 -NRSV

Hospitality rights were important in the ancient Near East.  And to break them would draw the wrath of the gods. Here the writer uses the kind Abraham to contrast Sodom and Gomorrah.  The writer tells us that they could not even find ten righteous, and shows Abraham even raising the question of justice and the Deity allowing him.  At times I wish he would have whittled it down to two or three.  But he appears to stop short out of fear. So what was the sin of Sodom that drew the Fury of God?   “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” -Eze-16:49 NRSV   By Heavens!  That could most of us! And how could they know that having been born with abnormal sexual orientations was considered unclean when the law was not yet given?  And even if they had been given the Law they were not Hebrews so were not required to follow them unless they lived among them. Even today Orthodox Judaism does not force gentiles to observe the 613 Mitzvot.  Not even the ten commandments were committed to stone before the destruction of Sodom. So it’s a good thing Abraham brought up justice in his conversation. This is not the only time the biblical writer uses the Sodom motif. It shows again in Judges 19 to discredit the line of King Saul and the tribe of Benjamin.

So is there some way that I could excuse the abnormal sexual orientation and slip them under the gates of heaven?  I think as a non- believer I may have to try because it seems that believers are not trying hard enough.  I plead the bacon chapter! “He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.”  Acts 10:10-16 -NRSV  So I do suppose that one could condemn the abnormal sexual orientation, eating a shell fish and pork  sandwich on Easter Sunday , while the good Lord sends the fire down from heaven to smote the gays. Amazing!  But not to worry pastor Jeremy saves the day by the end of chapter three in his book Fury of God.

It was most refreshing to read on page 85, after mentioning the book “The Scarlet Letter”, pastor Jeremy states: “Fellow believers, Pastors, and Christian leaders, read carefully: There is an issue of hypocrisy, pride, and self-righteousness in your life if you are not as disgusted by your own sin as you are by the taboo sins of others. These “taboo” sins usually serve as pedestals for some to proclaim their own righteousness. The self-righteous can fight the homosexual, condemn the adulterer, and despise the divorced, and in so doing they can ignore their own “little” sins and declare themselves righteous before God in light of the unrighteousness of others” Thank goodness someone said it! For this I give the pastor an  “Amen!”  from outside some open window of the church ( the place might fall in if I dare enter). So in short we have all messed up and have our own issues that we should take care of and I am in agreement with this section. I think that both the believer and non-believer at times, while pointing out the mistakes or abnormalities of others quickly forget they themselves may be just as guilty of the same or something else! While talking to an online friend who was working towards converting to Judaism, which is a long process, he commented on his issues with the one of the diary laws.  But he quickly commented; “Well there are 612 other commandments to work on!”

In closing I would like to recommend the book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate. by Justin Lee. Justin Lee came through the evangelical movement being gay and wrote his book telling about the experience.  His book was most helpful to me in understanding what it was like to be gay while still a follower of Christ.  Also it was encouraging to hear that Exodus International, the gay conversion ministry that was run by Alan Chambers for years, was shut down by Chambers and he will be coming out with a book “My Exodus: From Fear to Grace.”  on the topic.

And of all that has been said, nothing remains unshaken but the saying, that to do injustice is more to be avoided than to suffer injustice, and that the reality and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all things, as well in public as in private life; and that when any one has been wrong in anything, he is to be chastised, and that the next best thing to a man being just is that he should become just, and be chastised and punished; also that he should avoid all flattery of himself as well as of others, of the few or of the many: and rhetoric and any other art should be used by him, and all his actions should be done always, with a view to justice.  -Gorgias, by Plato

Written by A. D. Wayman

Book mentioned

The Fury of God: We Cannot Truly Understand God’s Love Until We Fully Understand His Fury

 

 

Posted by: religionthink | April 9, 2015

Noah’s Simple Compliance

Noahs_Ark

A response to “Sorrow and Love Flow Mingled Down”

Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. – Isaac Watts

Moving on to chapter 2 in the book The Fury of God by Pastor Jeremy Lundmark, and in response to his study on the topic, we come to the Hebrew account of the flood and the destruction of humankind by the deity. Here we are presented with a few things that many belivers/non-belivers take issue with. Why would a loving God decide to kill off every living thing that had the breath of life and start over? And my own question; why did Noah simply comply? At lest Abraham was able to ask some good questions about justice when the Lord came with his messengers. “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Gen 18:24-25 -NRSV

While some fine ministers of the Lord like to attribute natural disasters to sins such as homosexuality, abortion, or whatever transgressions the good folks come up with to scapegoat the calamity; in the Hebrew text of Genesis 6:11 it seems the drastic action by the heavens was due to violence. At the start of chapter 6 of Genesis we see that Humankind mates with deities and God places a limit on their years of life “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days– and also afterward– when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.” -Gen 6:4 -NRSV. Some believers wonder what or who these beings were. But anyone who spends some time reading the Homeric epics of the Iliad and Odyssey, will come to understand just how much killing and suffering these human/deity beings caused the Greek divine realms. Even the son of the terrible Cronus, Zeus, was in hardship over the violence and misery caused by the raging warriors at the walls of Troy.

On page 55 in his book, The Fury of God, pastor Jeremy Lundmark makes the statement “In short , God can be grieved by the world and still agape love the world by sending His Son. I think we’ve made a subtle and serious theological error when we start thinking that God’s love necessarily corresponds to the affections we often think of when we use the word love.” And correct he is, but not in the way we might think. As a non-believer and agnostic I view the relationship much differently.

I would like the reader to avoid projecting the “angry anti-theist, atheist extremist, new atheist” label on me for a time and allow me to layout my response in some relaxed fashion, because at times these labels can distract us from the discussion at hand. I view the relationship between God and man as abusive. And even though much has been done to correct that image in the “New Testament” salvation is NOT free, but as the song by the hymn writer Isaac Watts above states, “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” I have learned in the past that if a political movement, social movement, or belief system needs to advertise they are peaceful, free, and loving, one should check to see what is in the water before jumping in the pool. And action should directly correlate with the message they are sending. Many times it is not. While much can be blamed on human frailty, “sin”, or believers not meeting the expectations, the “Fury of God” can also be simply God’s mental issues. The biblical writers and believers provide excellent theology and interpretations to cover for the divine.

It seems the whole book The Fury of God is a justification and excuse for God’s bad behavior. And what a intricate and complex systems have been created! I told the good pastor in a text while discussing his book that the non-believer would have a blast with such a topic. In the following paragraphs I would like to discuss some ideas from the German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist, Eric Fromm. I realize I already lost half of my good christian readers already with such titles describing Fromm, but in his book Escape From Freedom he makes some excellent observations that should help my argument out here.

After a short break for a drink (coffee). We find, as the righteous Job experienced, the divine in the Hebrew literature had very authoritarian and sadistic tendencies while at the same time having the expectation that his followers be somewhat masochistic, loving him more out of the pain and suffering. At times these terms are associated with human sexuality, but here with Fromm’s help we will be discussing them mentally and spiritually.

In his book Escape From Freedom, on page 163-167, Fromm launches into his chapter on Authoritarianism. He discusses the tendencies of both the masochist and the sadist. The one with masochistic tendencies, says Fromm, have feelings of inferiority, insignificance, and powerlessness. Folks would like to rid themselves of such feelings but at the same time are driven toward them. We all have such tendencies in one form or another. We realize our short comings and belittle ourselves, make ourselves weak. This causes us, as we seen in my last essay, to be open to dependence on powers beyond ourselves. Life becomes extremely overwhelming and is viewed in a very pessimistic fashion, as uncontrollable. This then leads to self accusations, and self criticism. So it becomes the norm and is viewed as a labor of love and that the circumstances are uncontrollable and the feeling of inferiority become the standard. With such a gloomy outlook on life it would be easy for some to compound that with definitions of sin and transgressions and Change the label “masochistic” to the more theological term “Conviction”.

By heavens! With such folks brought to such lives through Christianity at times, and other systems, it is no wonder that there are such pessimistic views of this world and life here on earth, of humankind, a fall, and a future of war torn apocyclopticism. And we praise Noah for simply building with no questions asked and champion Job when the Hebrew text states; “Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22 -NRSV).

What Fromm says about the sadistic tendencies is even more damaging for it is quite the opposite. And it is as if opposites attract! Fromm on page 165 of Escape From Freedom states; “ We find three kinds of sadistic tendencies, more or less closely knit together. One is to make others dependent on ones self and to have absolute and unrestricted power over them, so as to make of them nothing as instruments, “Clay in the potter’s hand.” Another consists of the impulse not only to rule over others in this absolute fashion, but to exploit them, to steal from them, to disembowel them, and so to speak, to incorporate anything eatable in them. This desire can refer to material things as well as to immaterial ones, such as the emotional or intellectual qualities a person has to offer. A third kind of sadistic tendency is the wish to make others suffer or to see them suffer.”

So such a one in this type of “give and take/ opposite attract” relationship would live the most miserable life. So the good Lord sends his Son to have him die death and resurrect to give a person freedom. Freedom from what? If we are still allowing the abuser back into the house because he felt sorry and gave us a rainbow and his only son to die for the very psychological fury he works on the world. Then why do  we have to make excuses on why we still show injury? We can not simply keep telling folks we fell down the stairs. Now I can see why the early church Marcion of Sinope rejected the Hebrew deity.

And so such is the real “Fury of God” and what we give in exchange just might not be worth it if all we have is a sledge hammer being held over heads, and the fear of hell, to cow us into compliance. Should such an abuser live in our lives and homes it would not take long for a more independent person to send him packing and not let him back no matter how sorry he was or how many rainbows given. Because such a trend never stops, as seen in the bible, but continues today.

De-conversion for me has been most liberating. I have sent the abuser from my house. He calls to say he’s sorry and tries to have me let him back in but I blocked his number. He still stalks me with all kinds of misery, known and unknown. I am grateful humankind was tossed from the garden for it was a step towards freedom. With the above rant I have now lived up to the angry atheist / anti- theist stereotype. And I do hope I have not lost half of you.  I do apologize for such frankness to my Jewish readers and those in Noahide and Torah study groups I attend for such a scathing rant on the Divine. But these posts have given me a means of getting the pebble from my shoe that I have been stepping on for quite some time.

Written By A.D. Wayman

Book mentioned:
The Fury of God: We Cannot Truly Understand God’s Love Until We Fully Understand His FuryMay 27, 2014 by Jeremy J. Lundmark

Posted by: religionthink | April 3, 2015

See, the man has become like one of us..

the_creation_of_adam

A Response To “Bathing In the Pool of Uncommon Common Grace”

Then the LORD God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– Gen 3:22 -NRSV

Pastor Jeremy Lundmark, in his blog post, is conducting an interesting study of his new book The Fury of God, The topic of this post is concerning the idea of the Grace of God and how one must first realize God’s Fury before one can fully understand and appreciate God’s grace. The author gives examples of man’s early troubles in the garden and the perceived freedom in choosing life over death. In chapter one the author lists four things God gave the humans; existence , earthly necessities, purpose, and lastly freedom.

In writing I like to be upfront that I am an agnostic. And the book written by the good pastor Jeremy was not meant to be used as an apologetic text , but one for believers. However, since I have an interest in theology and biblical literature, I decided to respond as a non-believer to some of the claims made in his book and study at TheologyMix so that readers may have some view of how such ideas are seen from the secular side. Many times the music written on both sides are only directed at the perspective choirs, and assumptions about how the other views each group ends up being stereotypical at best. And much of the time this misinformed view results in being substituted for the reality.

The goal of this post will be to show that the topics in Chapter one of The Fury of God, go far deeper then the good pastor had pages to write about. His intent is well taken and it is known that had the topics been explored at length there would be a whole encyclopedia to buy. But there are a few issues that create a rub for the non-believing on lookers that can not simply be swept away. Also, for me personally, I do not believe that the science of psychology, or ideas of philosophy will address every question of the human spirit. However, I would ask those believers who maybe reading to give me a little ground to stand on, as I have given the good pastor the time to read his book.

In his blog post titled “Bathing In the Pool of Uncommon Common Grace” Pastor Lundmark starts the discussion off with an example of disciplining children and how at times they may not realize all the good things the parents give and that the parents are at times disappointed at some of the reactions. He states at the end of the third paragraph “One of the most important things we overlook as believers is that, in the Garden, God gave us something we can never repay him for. He gave us our very existence.”

The account of the creation and fall of man is a beautiful account. In a few short chapters the Hebrews described how the universe and earth was created, how the animals were named, how humans came to work hard, why women have birth pains, why snakes crawl on their stomachs, why humans are afraid of snakes, why snakes bite, why humans kill snakes, how humans came to die death, and the list goes on. The text is written in the most beautiful fashion, that if one starts to read the primeval history of the Hebrew text of Genesis, it is quite hard to put down. However, in relation to the “fall of humans” psychology has done a great deal to explain what all these accounts might refer to because we go through the processes everyday and may not even know it. Researchers like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Erich Neumann, Otto Rank, Earnest Becker, and others have laid the foundation on how we view such processes today.

The ideas are changing as we study and learn more, but the findings have been enlightening. Terms like Individuation, Transference, Self-actualization, and Narcissistic parentification all have roles in the account of the creation of humans. Some have brought up the idea that culture shapes our moral values. An excellent post covering the topic would be “Morality is a Culturally Conditioned Response“. In the post the writer Jesse Prinz argues:

“The problem with divine commands as a cure for relativism is that there is no consensus among believers about what God or the gods want us to do. Even when there are holy scriptures containing lists of divine commands, there are disagreements about interpretation: Does “Thou shalt not kill?” cover enemies? Does it cover animals? Does it make one culpable for manslaughter and self-defense? Does it prohibit suicide? The philosophical challenge of proving that a god exists is already hard; figuring out who that god is and what values are divinely sanctioned is vastly harder.”

So I find it interesting that evangelical parents and others believe that their child sins when they are simply learning the expectations of the family and social constructs. And as they become more independent they wish to separate themselves from the parents and develop their own independent actions, thoughts, feelings, and even create defenses to the biggest anxiety of all humans, which is death. So while one might give all to their children and hold it over their heads to get them to comply, the push back is a natural process that will one day allow them to responsibly move out of your house and have their own place!

Good heavens! Imagine if every child stayed with their parents forever and not self-actualize and become individuals. Imagine if we were all narcissistic parents helicoptering over our kids blackmailing them into doing good and into what we perceive as perfection. We would be raising little terrors who would do us in at the end!

I know that above was a simplification of the terms for volumes have been written on each one. But there is one we have not covered and it plays an important role in how we view the world and ourselves and that is transference. On the topic of transference Ernest Becker, on page 154 -155 , in his book The Denial of Death. gives us a glimpse of the issue.

“Do we wonder why one of man’s chief characteristics is his tortured dissatisfaction with himself, his constant self-criticism? It is the only way he has to overcome the sense of hopeless limitation inherent in his real situation. Dictators, revivalists and sadists know that people like to be lashed with accusations of their own basic unworthiness because it reflects how they truly feel about themselves. The sadist doesn’t create a masochist; he finds them ready made. Thus people are offered one way of overcoming unworthiness: the chance to idealize the self, to lift it truly to heroic levels. In this way man sets up the complementary dialogue with himself that is natural to his condition. He criticizes himself because he falls short of heroic ideals he needs to meet in order to be a really imposing creation.

You can see that man wants the impossible: He wants to lose his isolation and keep it at the same time. He can’t stand the sense of separateness, and yet he can’t allow the complete suffocating of his vitality. He wants to expand by merging with the powerful beyond that transcends him, yet he wants while merging with it to remain individual and aloof, working out his own smaller-scale self expansion.”

So here we have a glimpse of one hypothesis on why the humans ate of the tree of “good and bad” and also why the heavenly beings feared man would eat of the tree of life. It was not only of eating of the tree of “knowing good and bad” but also they mated with divine beings and giants roamed the land, they tried to build a siege tower to the heavens. In short, while clinging to the powerful, they wanted expansion like we all do, but in an independent way. To transfer ourselves to something more heroic and powerful, but not become enslaved to it.

Also transference works another way. One can pin all hopes, wishes, anxieties, on an object and be let down. I am sure the biblical Job was surprised when all he had was taken from him by the very object he transferred to for a defense against the onslaught of life and the reality of his mortality and insignificance. As each servant came to tell the account of all the destruction, Job becomes a compliant victim, but like few others have done, took issue with the divine to the point of wanting to put the God on trial for his actions.

In real life we Jobs do NOT get everything back. Each human believer/non-believer faces the same issues in life, and all have the same anxiety of death and annihilation. But some groups have constructed creative ways to ease those fears, either through art, psychology, science, other humans, bloodletting, scapegoats, dictators, which all have the promise of some salvation to shield them from the real “terror of god” the smallness of the self and the harsh vastness of the universe which has not emotion nor pity. Which has teeth that constantly chew and stomachs that process. And the deity we praise and thank, is at the same time possibly growing cancer inside us, pushing us towards an early demise. And the reality of things make it a “Common Constructed Grace” rather then an “Uncommon Common Grace”.

Your speech is pompous sounding, full of pride, as fits the lackey of the Gods. You are young and young your rule and you think the tower in which you live is free from sorrow: from it have I not seen two tyrants thrown? The third, who now is king, I shall yet live to see him fall, of all three most suddenly, most dishonored. Do you think I will crouch before your Gods, -so new-and tremble? I am far from that.” ― Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
– Post By A.D. Wayman

Pastor Jeremy’s book:
 The Fury of God: We Cannot Truly Understand God’s Love Until We Fully Understand His Fury

 

Posted by: religionthink | March 5, 2015

Fury of the Gods

job_and_his_friends

When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than this body. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath. What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment? Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle? – (Job 7:13-19 -NRSV)

A response to the post:  If God is Love, Why Should We Care About His Fury?

In response to a study of the book The Fury of God., I decided to take it upon myself to answer the questions at the end of post. I have not posted in some time so readers of my blog might find a new post refreshing. I thought this topic was just the right subject to jump start a conversation on religion and theology.

I had the privilege of working a secular job with the author Pastor Jeremy Lundmark and have been to his church a few times in the past. I have been meaning to stop in and have him sign my book some Sunday. However, had I told him ahead of time, he may have interrupted his current thematic sermon and substituted one of Hell, fire, brimstone, and repentance. So such a visit would surly have to be a surprise. It was also a privilege to read his first book and I am sure he is very proud of his accomplishment for it is a topic that is not mentioned often in evangelical circles.

I am an agnostic who came out of evangelical fundamentalism. I like to be up front about my religious views at the start because I have always believed that to appear to be something outwardly you are not inwardly is simply a deception. I also realize that the book Pastor Jeremy wrote was to believers and not to be taken as an apologetic text.

In the first paragraph of his post Pastor Jeremy mentions an interesting parable found in Luke 7:40-43. In short a rich guy loaned money to some deadbeats (who probably said they would pay him back Friday when they got their checks) but came up short. The rich guy then says “Ahhhh just forget it.” (Maybe after he added up court costs). It is pointed out that the deadbeat who borrowed the most possibly appreciated the dept forgiveness more. And so the idea of the power of the Cross is raised. Which to me is quite simply the group symbol of transcendence of sacrifice to appease collective guilt. In many cultures this is and has been done many different ways. Including blood letting in many forms.

At the time Pastor Jeremy posted his first study on his book The Fury of God. I happened to be reading an older book about the same length entitled Escape from Evil by Ernest Becker. It was quite an amazing read and discussed man’s (and women’s) issues with guilt, meaning in life, and transcendence. The strange twist to it all, that Becker points out, is by trying to resolve these issues we bring about certain evils in the world. One of man’s (and women’s) biggest fear is that he knows he is dust and fears extinction with insignificance. We would like to know our lives counted for something in the larger scheme of things and would like to leave some meaningful trace which in turn brings about not only fear of death but of eternal destruction.1 So we cling to culture, ritual, sacrifice, power figures, and symbols to allow ourselves to transcend beyond the grave. Becker writes: “By preforming prescribed rites the communicant unites himself with Christ-the sacrifice-who is God, and in this way the worshiper accrues to himself a mystical body or soul which has immortal life.”2

The current popular Christian message of love and life seems seems to cloak the circle of death. We kill and chew to fill our stomachs and so also will we die and be chewed up. Ministers die of cancer just as much as the unbelieving. And just maybe we are simply all Jobs in this life. Judaism handles the fury of the deity in a much different way. Having a much different concept of the origin of evil, and different theological beliefs of the role of the Satan, they believe that all things both good and bad come from the Deity. Below is the confessional as death nears.

My God and God of my ancestors, accept my prayer; do not ignore my supplication. Forgive me for all the sins which I have committed in my lifetime. I am abashed and ashamed of the wicked deeds and sins which I have committed. Accept, I pray You, my pain and suffering as atonement, and forgive my wrongdoing, for I have truly sinned against You . May it be Your will, O Lord my God and God of my ancestors, that I sin no more. With Your great mercy cleanse me of my sins, but not through suffering and disease. Send full healing to me and to all who are stricken. I acknowledge before You, O Lord my God and God of my ancestors, that my life and my recovery depend upon You. May it be Your will to heal me. Yet if you have decreed that I shall die of this affliction, may my death atone for all the sins and transgressions which I have committed before You. Shelter me in the shadow of Your wings and grant me a share in the eternal life. Parent of orphans and guardian of the bereaved, protect my beloved family with whose soul my own soul is bound. Into Your hand I commit my soul. You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. The Lord is God. The Lord is God. The Lord is God”3

Above the dying takes not only his own guilt and sickness, but also that of the society, He sacrifices his own self for perceived transgressions. This sense of guilt is at times felt while one still standing upright on a battle field or in a cemetery. One may say “How grateful am I, that I alone am still among the living, standing upright among these corpses.” or  “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” (Job 1:16 -NRSV) I have studied the wrath and fury of both God and his people. And also gods and followers of other cultures and belief systems. I find it somewhat humorous that Zeus laments being blamed for all the miseries of men.

“Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves – in their depravity – design 
griefs greater than the griefs that fate assigns.
So did Aigisthos act when he transgressed
the boundaries that fate and reason set” 4

In the end it appears that everything may simply be as written in the Hebrew text of Ecclesiastes where there writer comes to the conclusion that all is vanity.  And possibly we here, who are still above the ground, can help clean up some of God’s messes through the use of our own might and will power, doing good for goodness sake. I appreciate each day as a new day and maybe the last.  And everyone I see here I currently view as walking corpses. It may sound pessimistic, but each moment spent is considered borrowed quality time. And like Job I say daily to the deity, if such a being exists,  “Let me alone, for my days are a breath.”

Pastor Jeremy’s Book
The Fury of God: We Cannot Truly Understand God’s Love Until We Fully Understand His Fury

  1. Ernest Becker, Escape from Evil (New York, Free Press, 1975), 5.
  2. Becker, Escape from Evil, 21.
  3. A Rabbi’s Manual, J. Harlow (New York, The Rabbinical Assembly: 1965) 96-97
  4. Homer, Odyssey32-35, Mandelbaum translation.
Posted by: religionthink | September 25, 2011

Inserting Justice Into The New Testament

aachen_allegory

While thinking about the topic of justice, I went to the biblical literature to see if she could be found.  The texts of the ” Old Testament” list her a few times but she was quite absent from the”New Testament”. I wondered why Justice was not given a place in the Gospels or in the texts of Paul among the virtues listed in the “Fruits of the Spirit”.  Had this been mentioned from the first, and if Justice was pursued or made manifest in the “New Testament” teachings, quite possibly the many injustices committed by believers against their neighbors and each other might have been avoided.

I decided I should correct the issue and take in upon myself to give Justice mention in at least one chapter on the “New Testament”. Do not chide me for altering the sacred texts in such a way. For history proves it has been done for reasons far worse. To make mention of Justice, when so many of the great writers failed to, will only work towards improving the text. The reader should feel free to insert any other virtue here that may have been forgotten. They will find it works out quite nicely.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not Justice, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not Justice, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not Justice, it profiteth me nothing. Justice suffereth long, and is kind; Justice envieth not; Justice vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh her own, is easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Justice never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, Justice, these three; but the greatest of these is Justice.”  *

*Edited by the author using 1 Corinthians 13, KJV translation.

Posted by: religionthink | September 24, 2011

Ahmadinejad Attempts To Seduce Justice

mahmoud_ahmadinejad

Scource: Photo by Daniella Zalcman from New York City, USA. Website http://dan.iella.net/. Cropped by en:User:Moshino31.Posted on Flickr.

While listening to the lofty speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  from the floor of the United Nations discussing inequality , liberty, and  justice I  wondered if he knew what those terms were or like many a rhetorician was just reading the words off the page.  While many  of those to whom his speech was directed at quickly applauded the condemnation of the west and conspiracy theories; some of the hostility can be understood.  For a country feeling boxed in feels it has no other choice but to resort to such tactics in order to survive.  Painting his country as the victim almost drew sympathy and tugged at the emotions until I remembered the past elections that installed Ahmadinejad president once more and the deaths of the many protesters by the hands of the government. Like any tyrant, he will be allowed to remain as president until he has served his purpose for the clerics and army who installed him .

Upon hearing such a lofty speech I happen to think  of the Dialogue of  Plato, Menexenus, translated by Benjamin Jowett. “And if, as often happens, there are any foreigners who accompany me to the speech, I become suddenly conscious of having a sort of triumph over them, and they seem to experience a corresponding feeling of admiration at me, and at the greatness of the city, which appears to them, when they are under the influence of the speaker, more wonderful than ever. This consciousness of dignity lasts me more than three days, and not until the fourth or fifth day do I come to my senses and know where I am; in the meantime I have been living in the Islands of the Blest. Such is the art of our rhetoricians, and in such manner does the sound of their words keep ringing in my ears.”

So when I came back from the Islands of the Blest I also recalled Socrates long discourse in Plato’s  Republic concerning the tyrant and this led me to think about the topic of justice. One may not completely know what justice is but we know what it is not. Nurturing her is a daily task and if one were to have the least amount of apathy or complacency she will leave promptly and become but a phantom. One will believe she is there, hold her hand and court her, but in the hours of need she will be as mist. One should protect lady Justice at all cost . When she is down one should fight fiercely for her, like the Greeks fought for the body of the beloved Patroclus. For if she is left on the field she will be stripped of her armor, be lost to the enemy, and be defiled. “The Arab Spring” is mounting in  Ahmadinejad’s house. But the ransom for the body of Justice from the tyrant state will be costly.

Tyrants like Ahmadinejad  will try to court Justice and make her promises to win her over.  But this is only false promises and false hopes. The reply from Justice should be as the reply Gilgamesh gave to Ishtar in the Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet 6 “ See here now I will recite the list of your lovers.” Quite naturally the tyrant will be angered when rebuffed by Justice and will let his fury rage.  And like the suffering servant that she is, Justice will stand and receive the blows.  So each individual should cling to the robe of justice and court her for themselves before  presenting her to the world. For if she is unknown to the individual how can the individual present her to the state?

“Follow me then, and I will lead you where you will be happy in life and after death, as the argument shows. And never mind if some one despises you as a fool, and insults you, if he has a mind; let him strike you, by Zeus, and do you be of good cheer, and do not mind the insulting blow, for you will never come to any harm in the practice of virtue, if you are a really good and true man. When we have practiced virtue together, we will apply ourselves to politics, if that seems desirable, or we will advise about whatever else may seem good to us, for we shall be better able to judge then. In our present condition we ought not to give ourselves airs, for even on the most important subjects we are always changing our minds; so utterly stupid are we! Let us, then, take the argument as our guide, which has revealed to us that the best way of life is to practice justice and every virtue in life and death. This way let us go; and in this exhort all men to follow, not in the way to which you trust and in which you exhort me to follow you; for that way, Callicles, is nothing worth.” -Gorgias, by Plato translated by Benjamin Jowett

Posted by: religionthink | May 22, 2011

Apocalyptic Prophets: Christianity’s Embarrassing Relatives

apocalypse_vasnetsov

 Apocalyptic Prophets: Christianity’s Embarrassing Relatives

After spending millions on a false apocalyptic claim due to some math error, everyone is still here on God’s creation, earth.  Many times some of the most pious, while in such a hurry to leave, forget the house keeping job they were given.  And after so many times at failure, such episodes still continue to happen. It almost makes one wish there were no heaven or hell, for if such was the case we might be able to concentrate on our current existence, constantly persueing righteousnesses and virtue, without heaven being a selfish desire. Any person who bribes with heaven, or fear mongers using hell to lure or scare people into the fold are nothing more then the worst of crooks.   The millions that,  the  apocalyptic Camping and his harpies spent on the billboards could have gone to the poor, and those believers so devout, have now gone away sorrowful. Why religious groups still bury their talents in the ground of apocycalypticsm maybe unknown but here are a few reasons I came up with while brainstorming for Christian evangelicalism.

One reason why some become followers of crooks like Harold Camping is because of a lack of sound education in the area of eschatology and apocalypticism.  We are all happy sitting in our Sunday school classes with our elementary grade lessons, rather then doing the hard work of doing serious studies on what, why and how your particular denomination views eschatology and apocalypticism. What is eschatology and apocalypticism? How did it develop?  How do other belief systems view the topics? What constitutes a false prophet? What is alike and what is different between the views of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam concerning eschatology and apocalypticism?  How are the Christian denominational views alike? How are they different?  What were the claims of the past? I do suppose that to get through these tough questions without someone falling a sleep in the pew, or checking their watch every five minutes would cause apocalyptic event itself.  However, if believers can not come to a conclusion on something as basic as the theology of eternal life, maybe such a study on the end of times would be far to much to take on.

I believe Chirst wanted people working and investing in the here and now. Many of the parables discuss such themes. Heaven is a payment for doing the work. Salvation is a job offer. Mainstream minister fall asleep at the wheel by not educating their congregations on these topics. So not only is brother Jim dozing off in the third pew back each Sunday, it has become the  norm of the minister to shy away from more advance theological topics because of the preconceived notion that those of the flock only can bear a third grade, thirty minuet, sermon. And heaven forbid if a “bible study” on Wednesday nights actually took on the very thing the name implies. And it would be heretical to study apocalyptic texts such as what led to the temple destruction by the Romans in Josephus or read the text of Enoch or the War scroll from the Dead sea community. For it is with in these very texts where modern eschatology and apocalypticism started, even influencing the overly analysed Revelation.

You can choose your friends but not your relatives, and so Christianity tolerates The Uncle Falwells and Harold Campings at the Thanksgiving dinner of fellowship, and I believe that is the issue. We buy their “Inspirational Material”, their texts of prophecy flies off the bookstore shelves.  “Left Behind” rakes in millions.  Many times Christians tell mainstream Islam to speak out against the extremists, but we have our own escapees, having slipped their straight jackets running wildly necked through God’s wheat field.  Maybe there is such a thing as the lying spirit of the Lord. I think the devil might be innocent on this one.  We may have to blame no one else but ourselves.

Posted by: religionthink | May 9, 2011

Hellenistic Paul: Letter to The Romans Chapter Three

v26a_-_raphael2c_st_paul_preaching_in_athens_28151529

 

Hellenistic Paul: Letter to The Romans Chapter Three

What the Greeks and Romans heard. A translation with editing based on The Letter to the Romans from Paul while comparing ideas from Greek thought and philosophy in order to highlight the Hellenistic ideas in the writings of Paul. Below is chapter three of Romans. This is a fictional text. The references in the “Notes” section are theological and philosophical ideas that would apply to the context.

So what difference does it make who’s a Greek and who isn’t, who has been trained in Virtue’s ways and who hasn’t? As it turns out, it makes a lot of difference–but not the difference so many have assumed. First, there’s the matter of being put in charge of writing down and caring for Virtue’s revelation, these teachings. So, what if, in the course of doing that, some of those Greeks abandoned their post? Virtue didn’t abandon them. Do you think their faithlessness cancels out his faithfulness? Not on your life! Depend on it: Virtue keeps her word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Hesiod says the same: “The eye of Zeus seeing all things and regarding all also sees these things if he wants, nor does it escape from him what sort of justice a city works within.” But if our wrongdoing only underlines and confirms Virtue’s rightdoing, shouldn’t we be commended for helping out? Since our bad words don’t even make a dent in her good words, isn’t it wrong of Virtue to back us to the wall and hold us to our word? These questions come up. The answer to such questions is no, a most emphatic No! How else would things ever get straightened out if Virtue didn’t do the straightening? It’s simply perverse to say, “If my lies serve to show off Virtue’s truth all the more gloriously, why blame me? I’m doing Virtue a favor.” Critics are actually trying to put such words in our mouths, claiming that we go around saying, “The more evil we do, the more good Virtue does, so let’s just do it!” That’s pure slander, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

So where does that put us? Do we Greeks get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as doers of Vice. Hesiod leaves no doubt about it: “One man will sack another’s city. No appreciation will exist for the man who keeps his oath or for the just man or the good man, but they will honor the doer of wrong and the embodiment of violence. Justice and shame will lie in violence, and the evil man will harm the better by speaking with crooked words, and he will swear an oath to it. Envy that incites commotion and rejoices in others’ misfortunes will accompany men, every wretched one of them, Envy hateful to look at. Then to Olympus away from wide-wayed earth, veiled in robes of white over their beautiful skin, will go Shame and Nemesis, abandoning men for the throng of immortals. Grievous pains will be left for mortal men, and there will be no defense against evil.” They never give Virtue the time of day. This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these teachings is not what Virtue says about others but to us to whom these teachings were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re doers of Vice, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with Virtue’s revelation doesn’t put us right with Virtue. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s Vice. But in our time something new has been added.

What Socrates and the philosophers witnessed to all those years has happened. The Zeus-setting-things-right that we read about has become Virtue-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in Virtue. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as doers of vice (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives Zeus wills for us, Virtue did it for us. Out of sheer generosity she put us in right standing with herself. A pure gift. she got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And she did it by means of the philosopher. Zeus sacrificed Virtue on the altar of the world to clear that world of Vice. Having faith in her sets us in the clear. The heavens decided on this course of action in full view of the public–to set the world in the clear with themselves through the sacrifice of Virtue, finally taking care of the Vice he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now–this is current history! Zeus sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness. So where does that leave our proud Greek insider claims and counterclaims? Canceled? Yes, canceled. What we’ve learned is this: Zeus does not respond to what we do; we respond to what Zeus does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with Virtue and all others by letting her set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade. And where does that leave our proud Greek claim of having a corner on Virtue? Also canceled. Zeus is the God of outsider non-Greek as well as insider Greek. How could it be otherwise since there is only one Zeus? Virtue sets right all who welcome her action and enter into it, both those who follow our philosophy and those who have never heard of our philosophy. But by shifting our focus from what we do to what Zeus does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways Virtue commands? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it. – Romans 3 (ESV. translation where not edited.)

Notes:

“Listen, then, Socrates, to us who have brought you up. Think not of life and children first, and of justice afterwards, but of justice first, that you may be justified before the princes of the world below. For neither will you nor any that belong to you be happier or holier or juster in this life, or happier in another, if you do as Crito bids. Now you depart in innocence, a sufferer and not a doer of evil; a victim, not of the laws, but of men. But if you go forth, returning evil for evil, and injury for injury, breaking the covenants and agreements which you have made with us, and wronging those whom you ought least to wrong, that is to say, yourself, your friends, your country, and us, we shall be angry with you while you live, and our brethren, the laws in the world below, will receive you as an enemy; for they will know that you have done your best to destroy us. Listen, then, to us and not to Crito.” Crito, By Plato. Translated by Benjamin Jowett

You princes, mark well this punishment you also; for the deathless gods are near among men and mark all those who oppress their fellows with crooked judgments, and reck not the anger of the gods. For upon the bounteous earth Zeus has thrice ten thousand spirits, watchers of mortal men, and these keep watch on judgments and deeds of wrong as they roam, clothed in mist, all over the earth. And there is virgin Justice, the daughter of Zeus, who is honored and reverenced among the gods who dwell on Olympus, and whenever anyone hurts her with lying slander, she sits beside her father, Zeus the son of Cronos, and tells him of men’s wicked heart, until the people pay for the mad folly of their princes who, evilly minded, pervert judgement and give sentence crookedly. Keep watch against this, you princes, and make straight your judgments, you who devour bribes; put crooked judgements altogether from your thoughts. He does mischief to himself who does mischief to another, and evil planned harms the plotter most. The eye of Zeus, seeing all and understanding all, beholds these things too, if so he will, and fails not to mark what sort of justice is this that the city keeps within it. Now, therefore, may neither I myself be righteous among men, nor my son — for then it is a bad thing to be righteous — if indeed the unrighteous shall have the greater right. But I think that all-wise Zeus will not yet bring that to pass. – Hesiod Works and Days. Lines 248-273, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White

“Wherefore, Simmias, seeing all these things, what ought not we to do in order to obtain virtue and wisdom in this life? Fair is the prize, and the hope great. I do not mean to affirm that the description which I have given of the soul and her mansions is exactly true-a man of sense ought hardly to say that. But I do say that, inasmuch as the soul is shown to be immortal, he may venture to think, not improperly or unworthily, that something of the kind is true. The venture is a glorious one, and he ought to comfort himself with words like these, which is the reason why lengthen out the tale. Wherefore, I say, let a man be of good cheer about his soul, who has cast away the pleasures and ornaments of the body as alien to him, and rather hurtful in their effects, and has followed after the pleasures of knowledge in this life; who has adorned the soul in her own proper jewels, which are temperance, and justice, and courage, and nobility, and truth-in these arrayed she is ready to go on her journey to the world below, when her time comes. You, Simmias and Cebes, and all other men, will depart at some time or other. Me already, as the tragic poet would say, the voice of fate calls. Soon I must drink the poison; and I think that I had better repair to the bath first, in order that the women may not have the trouble of washing my body after I am dead.” – Socrates, Phaedo. by Plato.

Posted by: religionthink | May 4, 2011

Hellenistic Paul: Letter To The Romans- Chapter Two

v26a_-_raphael2c_st_paul_preaching_in_athens_28151529

Hellenistic Paul: Letter to The Romans Chapter Two

What the Greeks and Romans heard. A translation  with editing based on The Letter to the Romans from Paul while comparing ideas from Greek thought and philosophy in order to highlight the hellenstic ideas in the writings of Paul. Below is Chapter 2 of Romans. This is  a  fictional text. The references in the “Notes” section are theological and philosophical ideas that would apply to the context.

Those people are on a dark spiral downward towards Hades. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But Zeus isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done. You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract Zeus from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice deity, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. Zeus is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. You’re not getting by with anything. Every refusal and avoidance of virtue adds fuel to the fire. The day is coming when it’s going to blaze hot and high, Zeus’s fiery thunderbolt and righteous judgment. Make no mistake: In the end you get what’s coming to you– Real Life for those who work on Zeus’s side, but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance and Vice, Thunderbolt!

If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way of Virtue, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Greek won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. Zeus pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind. If you commit vice and injustice without knowing what you’re doing, Virtue takes that into account. But if you commit vice and injustice knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing Virtue’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what she commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with Virtue. When outsiders who have never heard of Virtue’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that Virtue’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes Virtue’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to Virtue’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day Virtue makes the final decision about every man and woman. The Message ringing in my ears that I proclaim through Virtue takes into account all these differences.

If you’re brought up Greek, don’t assume that you can lean back in the arms of your religion and take it easy, feeling smug because you’re an insider to Virtue’s revelation, a connoisseur of the best things of philosophy, informed on the latest doctrines! I have a special word of caution for you who are sure that you have it all together yourselves and, because you know Virtue’s revealed Word inside and out, feel qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to virtue. While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you? I’m quite serious. While preaching “Don’t commit injustice!” are you going to accuse unjustly? Who would suspect you? The same with pride. The same with cowardice. You can get by with almost anything if you front it with rhetoric about virtue and her law. The line from Plato, ” The reality and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all things, as well in public as in private life.” shows it’s an old problem that isn’t going to go away. Virtue and Justice marks you as a Greek, is great if you live in accord with Virtue’s law. But if you don’t, it’s worse than not being Virtuous. The reverse is also true: The Virtuous who keep Virtue’s ways are as good as the gods in fact, better. Better to keep Virtue’s law and be a sufferer of vice than break it and become a doer of vice. Don’t you see: It’s not the appearance of virtue that makes a good Greek. You become a good Greek by who you are. It’s the mark of Virtue on your heart, not of outward appearance of virtue, that makes a good Greek. And recognition comes from Virtue herself, not rhetorical critics. (Rom 2:1-29)- The Message Bible Translation where not edited.

Notes:

Now all morning long, as the sacred daylight Grew brighter, the missiles of both sides struck home, and the warriors Fell. But when the Sun-god bestrode mid-heaven, The Father lifted his golden scales and in them Placed two lots of grievous and leveling death, One for the horse-taming Trojans, for the bronze-clad Achaeans The other. Then he took hold of the middle and lifted The scales, and the fatal day for Achaeans sank down And their fates rested on all-feeding earth, while those Of the Trojans were raised toward heaven’s expanse. And now Zeus uttered a great crash of thunder and hurled a huge bolt Of lightning down into the host of Achaeans. At this They were stricken with awe, and olive-pale panic gripped all of them Hard. -Iliad Of Homer, Book 8. English translation by W. Leaf

Perhaps this may appear to you to be only an old wife’s tale,which you will contemn. And there might be reason in your contemning such tales, if by searching we could find out anything better or truer: but now you see that you and Polus and Gorgias, who are the three wisest of the Greeks of our day, are not able to show that we ought to live any life which does not profit in another world as well as in this. And of all that has been said, nothing remains unshaken but the saying, that to do injustice is more to be avoided than to suffer injustice, and that the reality and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all things, as well in public as in private life; and that when any one has been wrong in anything, he is to be chastised, and that the next best thing to a man being just is that he should become just, and be chastised and punished; also that he should avoid all flattery of himself as well as of others, of the few or of the many: and rhetoric and any other art should be used by him, and all his actions should be done always, with a view to justice.– Gorgias by Plato, Translated by Benjamin Jowett

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: