Monthly Archives: November 2015

Ethics Of Belief

I would lief make a choice in life because that is a moral obligation where the truth is unknown or unknowable or attaining it, immoral. Belief is indistinguishable from thought because it is confidence, from assessment and assent to, a moral course and propositions are never so neatly framed as Frege or Clifford would have one believe. There is no thought or belief about propositions that escape the ethics of belief.

Belief in the gods then must be distinct from propositional language, for God is not a fact of the matter as He transcends all facts of any matter. If there is belief in the gods, then it is either from a sentimental impression of the world the believer has no control over, or, it is seen as a moral obligation one ought to choose to believe; but this entails owning exactly that God is unknown or unknowable and not an admission most believers today are willing to make.

The objections from non believers then, will always center around having no impressions there are gods and likewise having no reasons to see belief in the gods as any kind of obligation at all … and more, the believer often proves quite well himself, some or any other course is more moral.

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For The Bible …

In almost every instance of my hearing “the Bible tells me so”, what is meant is “it tells you so as well” and the basis is only someone telling me so; where the fact of the matter is demonstrably that this “teller of me sos” is ignorant, or functionally illiterate, of anything written of in the Bible.

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On Perversion

Who believes that reality limits what we can say about it? Who believes reality speaks for itself? If the latter is believed, then there is the obvious fact of it being wrong, given all theories of reality are developmental. Who would think appealing to reality as authoritative would make any difference at all in some theory of reality? That would be the equivalent of saying “What I believe about reality is true, is true … because reality exists!”

In fact, this is no different than having “scripture” substituted for “reality” in the above. All things are equal here. Scripture exists but it doesn’t speak for itself.

There is no more sense in saying Einstein was a Newtonian heretic than suggesting Arius was an Athanasian heretic, or Saint Augustine being Antichrist for framing scripture in Manichean and Neoplatonian terms (i.e. imputation of a “totally depraved” nature through “original sin”, “election”, etc.). Or indeed, John and Paul creating Christology in the image of Greek, Stoic and Neoplatonic philosophies.

It is a grand perversion to suggest anything more than that scripture exists, must be studied, limits conversations about it, but does not speak for itself. Ultimately, like reality and scripture, there are authorities. Neither can be authorities on themselves, but are objects of study.

I very much doubt anyone would suggest to Einstein that in the book of Newtonian gravity there’s a comment that says “this book is from God and is therefore authoritative” and therefore, Einstein was a heretic, the Antichrist, or wrong. And yet, some that agree what an odd thing to do will employ the exact absurdity over a book written by men; which of course is not demonstrable except to fiat and desire to believe it.

There is no scriptural authority except those spending their lives studying it.

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A Paradox

God is incomprehensibe, therefore the more we associate the knowing of God with revelation, the less we can claim revelations are about God. The paradox is that we can only guage in nature what may be supernatural by how unnatural it appears to be, and the more unnatural, the less comprehensible. The less comprehensible, the less meaningful. The more we expect to have God revealed, the more we become certain He cannot be.

The supernatural entails all things not natural. If there is a set of premises that draw many conclusions, upon what other basis would there be for adopting one belief versus the others? Perhaps that something unique exists in a certain kind of experience? Or, that one just prefers one versus others?

How does one then tie a natural experience to a supernatural source, other than it is truly queerer than normal experiences? And if we are more assured of a supernatural source given the extent or degree of oddity, then surely that has implications for saying God is revealing Himself to humanity. As the more true we hold that idea, the less it can be true! The more sure we are that there is a revelation from God, the less comprehensible it is. If revelation is instead comprehensible then the more so it is, the less supernatural it appears and the more dubious the claim that the source is God.

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It Doth Weareth

When I read a book by an author that talks about kings and kingdoms, lords and majesty and glory, sovereignty, rule and rulers, power and might, and this is the world he and his audience experience, I know all are stuck in that culture and likely all images and analogies and anecdotes will revolve around it.

It is absurd to me to think such a book should speak to my culture using the same language. When studying previous cultures, we learn not to judge their history from our perspective; to develop a “historical perspective”. But it seems to me we must bring the same to bear in the other direction.

If for example, democracy is objectively more beneficial than monarchy, dictatorships, or oligarchy, why presume to talk about God literally in inferior terms using foreign ideas? If for instance we now can see retributive justice is ineffectual and immoral and reformative justice better encompasses what the aim of justice is or should be, then why continue to have a retributivist God? Nearly the length and breadth of scripture is this way.

When God is defined as incomprehensible then it entails we cannot comprehend God, and we cannot comprehend God and then understand God. This is an inviolable fact of the matter and there are no exceptions.

What we think of God is what we think of God. What we believe about God is what we believe. We will in any case experience the reality of acting on those beliefs and whatever meaning we derive from it all. It would be odd to expect the cleanest route to any experience to be found through recreating a dead culture and then living through it.

Such an expectation is analogous to the entendre of the quip, “The King James Version was good enough for Jesus, so it’s good enough for me!” However, the solution doesn’t merely involve updated, modern language. It entails the length and breadth of scripture and identifying the principles the language and culture is writing with and within. In that case, we can only say God now looks a lot different than He once did, but only because we missed the points for them being hidden in time and foreign languages and cultures we failed to understand.

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“Hammer’s gonna be the death of me!”

What does John Henry have to do with “John Henry” and which matters more? It’d be obvious we can do without John Henry since few know about him and fewer care to find out. What’s not so clear is that we can do without “John Henry”. I suspect nothing would change for anyone if there were no John Henry at all. “John Henry” would survive unscathed.

The only difference between John Henry, “John Henry”, Jesus of Nazareth, and “Jesus of Nazareth” is that “Jesus of Nazareth” cannot work without Jesus of Nazareth. Not because the legend at all depicts the man, but that in order for some versions of Christology to work, the man must have existed and we must demand “Jesus of Nazareth” is Jesus of Nazareth; which is very dubious indeed.

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On Centrality

Folks tend to have a hard time wanting to agree, but will find it hard to disagree on this idea. Not because it’s particularly interesting, and not because it is an attack on any specific belief, but that it asks them to think about belief and follow through to what the implications are.

So if the theory of “belief” we have that states belief entails action, rather than just an attitude toward some state of affairs, then you have to examine what this means for religious doctrine. For example, to say “I believe there is a God”, we mean there exists an idea upon which I can and will act. We should apply that to the various creeds we have in Christianity.

“I believe Jesus is the Son of God” or “I believe in the Trinity” are examples we can ask about. If there is any credal statement which is an assertion to be “believed” but the assertion is not actionable, we have to ask whether or not it is true that all proper beliefs entail action. I think there are grounds to disagree and that these are certainly counter-examples that would make the point. But, that’s not the problem. The problem is that when we say “I believe Jesus is the Son of God” and that this is not an actionable belief, we have unmistakenly agreed that this belief is not and cannot be any kind of cental, important, or significant aspect of Christian belief; that is, aside from the function those beliefs have within, and only within, a particular Christian community that binds them together.

Suppose however, that we don’t want to deny this theory of “belief” and then can say such ideas as “Jesus is the Son of God” are in fact, actionable. If we can, then we can indeed say that such credal statements are perhaps central and necessary. Does this preserve the idea that they are?

If it turns out that we say “Because I believe Jesus is the Son of God … I follow his teachings”, then we have a start. But if it also turns out that “I do not believe Jesus is the Son of God … but for some other reason, I follow his teachings”, then “Jesus is the Son of God” cannot be seen as a central, necessary belief of Christianity.

Whether credal statements are or are not actionable, we can only say that they are significant to a particular community of believers, but never that such statements define Christian beliefs. Why? Because undoubtedly, the only actionable and proper beliefs about Christ we can hold are his teachings themselves. For if we take a creed as non actionable, we have said it is of literally no epistemic value since there is nothing to act upon, and if we take a creed as actionable, the centrality of the creed is only relative to any particular community of believers that think it is important to their community.

The obvious implication is that proper Christian beliefs, those that are central, that do matter in any epistemological sense, are the teachings of Christ and that the only consistent thing to say about salvation or atonement is that Christ lives anywhere the good is done, which is through the work of the Holy Spirit, and the good being what we as Christians, in faith, name “God”. Directly as a consequence, we have no right to suggest an Atheist, a Muslim, a Jew, or anyone else is not a Christian when they themselves can and do embody Christ through their works (James 2:14-26).

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On Heresy

The better question to ask is “Why did Jesus die?”, rather than “For whom did Jesus die?”, as the former entails no mystery or fiction; people do not tolerate heresy. The latter generally, “Well for me, of course! But perhaps not for you.”

Today, make sure you don’t kill anyone for all the correct reasons too.

That is all.

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On Hell

For me, people’s view of hell boils down to the fact that these are acknowledging at least in some sense, God is not an interventionist; no justice on Earth but what we create. Second, these have no real concept of love and systematize it in ancient terms that never evolved from the script; retribution.

What I suspect is our sensibilities now were outpaced by Jesus then. We’ve only recently seen retributive justice as immoral and moved to reformative justice in society. Our next leap in Theology will be thinking about the transformative nature of God’s being, where we ourselves would respond to being in his presence; for instance, in the same sense that music, art, a new lover move us to fundamentally change responsive to those experiences. Jesus atones, under Moral Influence Theory, in this kind of framework; i.e. his life and sacrifice compel us into ourselves, our humanity, and the response is to love.

Think of justice as having this goal: “That this may never happen again”. Then think of the only ethical means to it. Eternal torture or annihilation would be the opposite of love, and the extreme of any opposite; for what good, quite literally, would it do anyone.

If for some odd reason you’re inclined to say, “But oh! It does do good. It does God good. We have disobeyed and angered God!”, then I have to ask, since when has a man muted the immutable and since when did utter and protracted destruction look like a moral response to an emotion elicited? This appeases anger and pleasure returns to its proper place?!

But if there is a hell, I image in heaven we’re all up there and God asks everyone if we should send Joe there, then Don, then Bubba, then Sally, all down the line, all of us knowing we have no right to say and, we’re the next name He’s about to call. Doubtless, there will be some who vehemently say “Yes!”. Immediately, they go to hell … and Joe, Don, and Bubba and Sally remain in heaven with the rest of us who are just a little more humble, a little less callous, a little less hellish, a little more burdened holding that first stone.

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