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wellnamed

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Everything posted by wellnamed

  1. I don't think the Christ Myth theories deserve to be called "hoaxes", or are entirely implausible, but I think Carrier's arguments are flawed and as far as I know he is the most vocal and recent advocate of a myth theory. I can't find all of the mathematical critiques I've read of On the Historicity of Jesus but here's one in two parts: https://legiononomamoi.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/dr-richard-carriers-hypotheses-on-the-historicity-of-jesus/ https://legiononomamoi.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/carriers-historiography-why-we-may-have-reason-to-doubt-its-utilitity/ The in-a-nutshell criticism is that Carrier's use of a Bayesian framework doesn't really have any other effect except to codify highly subjective opinions in a more formal way. He then mistakes the formality of the presentation for an argument, when really the conclusions that come out of the model depend entirely on the subjectively determined prior probabilities put into it. Essentially, given the vagueness of our understanding of what constitutes reasonable evidence of either historicity or mythicization in general, the mathematical model doesn't really add any rigor to the process. As far as legitimate consensus among historians, to the best of my knowledge a majority believes in some historical Jesus, who of course probably bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the gospels. Bart Ehrman wrote a book arguing for this, for example. I think the truth is that it's not really possible to reach conclusions with iron-clad certainty here. Many historians accept the idea of some historical Jesus because they think that, given the way they normally approach such historical questions, there is enough evidence to think it more likely than not that there was. That shouldn't be mistaken for an argument that the gospels are true in some theological sense. There are also reasonable arguments in favor of mythicism, even if Carrier doesn't "prove" that it's the more likely conclusion the way he wants to.
  2. For those interested, here's a link to a WLC Q&A on this topic: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites Enjoy the terrifyingly horrific logic for yourself
  3. This may be overly pedantic, but I think it might be clearer to say that it's not so much that "hell" is a mistranslation of sheol as it is that Christian theology and metaphysics have attached a bunch of meaning to the word that isn't properly found in the Hebrew scriptures. There isn't really any English word that maps directly to sheol. The Greek hades may be the closest analogue in another language, as the place of the dead. Essentially, the word is so tied to a cultural understanding of the nature of death and its relation to other religious and cultural problems that it is difficult to translate into a modern context with a very different worldview. So that for example while "grave" avoids the misconceptions caused by anachronistic readings by later Christians, it also doesn't quite capture all of the meaning of the word. If you're interested in seeing how the word is used in the O.T., this is helpful: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/strongs_7585.htm I don't think we know the exact way in which Hebrew concepts relating to death and afterlife developed, but we can reasonably say that 1. The O.T. usage of the word never denotes a place of eternal punishment as a consequence of sin. That is entirely a later Christian innovation, mostly based on interpretations of the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:46, which doesn't reference either sheol or hades directly but refers to "eternal life" and "eternal punishment". The translation of the word aionios as "eternal" in both parts of the verse is actually not that straightforward (it's a complex word whose meaning is a bit obscure and tied to peculiarities in the way Greeks conceptualized time in different contexts), but by I think the 3rd or 4th century the logic was employed that given that Jesus had rebuked the saducees about the resurrection of the dead, and given Paul's writings, zoe aionios must be eternal life in the sense of an unending duration, because they couldn't fathom it otherwise, and therefore the parallel phrase for punishment in that same verse must indicate a perpetual punishment, and therefore "hell". From there, equating sheol and gehenna and hades to this place of punishment is a matter of harmonization. But this idea of "hell" is certainly not present in the original Hebrew. 2. Similarly to the Greek Hades, there are some interesting religious anthropomorphizations of sheol, and certainly death is considered something evil in an existential sense. Even in the O.T. there is some idea of death as being itself a kind of punishment for sin (c.f. Job 24:19) and also appeals to God to save the righteous from death, as in Psalm 16, which of course Christians believed to be speaking about Christ. That's why I say "grave" misses some of the religious connotations. If you think of these as indicating a pre-theoretical theodicy, an attempt to reconcile death and suffering with the existence of a powerful and good God, as well as to grapple with the existence of injustice,then they have something in common with the role that hell and salvation play in later Christianity, but the metaphysics have changed. Inasmuch as death is a punishment for sin in the O.T., it's a matter of dying sooner (Job says the sinners are "snatched" by death) and death is more oblivion ("For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?" -- Psalm 6:5) rather than eternal retribution. 3. I don't know that it's been definitely established what relation gehenna in 1st century usage has with the much older usages of sheol. There's an interesting post here that discusses it: http://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/36797/what-is-the-difference-between-hell-sheol-hades-and-gehenna(see the post beginning with "Michael A. Knibb...") Given the argument about the resurrection of the dead between Saducees and Pharisees, it's possible that by the time of Jesus the Jewish understanding of death and afterlife and punishment for sin has developed such that there does exist a concept of punishment for sin in the afterlife, whether eternal or not, and Jesus alludes to that understanding, but it would still be anachronistic to read the later views into Job or the Psalms.
  4. Sorry I've been so slow to respond. This is a trickier question than you might think. Almost every major world religion includes at least some school of theology that explores these themes, but if the goal is to consider participating in a religious community, it's problematic because they tend to be minorities within each religion, or the experience of a particular group might vary tremendously. I think Buddhism probably most straightforwardly values practice over theory and an extremely apophatic theology, but sometimes its apophatic to the point of being effectively atheist in some traditions. Or, you might be interested in Advaita Vedanta as an Indian tradition. My interest in this subject arose after exploring various ancient Christian theologians in the eastern orthodox tradition, and so I know more about that than anything else, but it may be less interesting to you (and also slightly out of place here ) since it is still very Christian. A more modern and pluralistic writer who I love is Raimon Panikkar, who discusses these kinds of topics in depth, integrating ideas from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. A good and brief introduction to his thought is in this book: http://www.amazon.com/Experience-God-Icons-Mystery/dp/0800638255/ Unfortunately there aren't great online resources for his ideas.
  5. Would you mind PM'ing me a log of what your malware detection software says about the site? I'm quite curious, and if there is actually malware on there I could make sure it gets removed
  6. I'm a big fan of the idea of pluralism as an (almost?) metaphysically fundamental truth. I enjoyed your thoughts. I might push back a bit on "logic is our proven method", but it depends on how narrow a definition of "logic" is employed. It's sort of like the adventures of Spock the half-human vulcan. Rational epistemology is indeed a proven method and the best one for approaching many problems, but "being human" in the fullest sense may involve more than just rational knowledge, even if it should exclude explicitly irrational ideology. Re: experimentation. I think it may just be that most people aren't as interested in this sort of abstract philosophizing? I could be wrong
  7. I have a couple thoughts: It seems useful to point out first of all that panentheism, pantheism, deism, and etc are not really "spiritual paths", per se. They are terms that describe different theological conceptions. So for example it seems somewhat confused to me to think of panentheism as a "spiritual substitute to Christianity". For one thing, there are certain traditions in Christianity which could be described as embracing a panentheistic theology. I'm thinking especially of eastern orthodoxy. Because the terms just describe certain theological ideas, it's not really true that, for example, a "panentheistic" God doesn't require worship. The idea of worship is neither prescribed nor dismissed by panentheism as such. A religious tradition may involve some particular theological view that could be described as pantheistic, panentheistic, deistic, monotheistic, or even atheistic, but those terms don't give a complete description of the theology with regard to worship or other typical religious expressions. To me, this sounds like you might be interested in apophatic theology. I would point out also that this idea is not unique to panentheism. For example, almost all traditional Christian theology, whether panentheistic or not, declares God to be beyond comprehension, as do other religions. So it's not quite as simple as thinking that panentheism says God is beyond comprehension while Christianity does not. Panentheism in and of itself doesn't say anything about whether God is knowable, but that's where the distinction between apophatic and cataphatic theology comes in. The theological idea that nothing we say about God is adequate to describe the reality is called apophasis. To give an example, when medieval European Christianity focused on defining God in terms like omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and the like, they were engaged in what is called cataphatic theology, i.e by giving positive descriptions. Apophatic theology begins by saying that God can't be known or described, and by denying the ultimate validity of anything said about God, and yet still proceeds to characterize that Divinity, in a round-about way, through various negations. It's essentially a principle that recognizes a fundamental limitation to human knowledge from the outset. The strength, as it were, of apophatic approaches is that they tend to be less dogmatic (since they deny the possibility of absolute knowledge), but of course that is also a weakness from a different perspective. Rationally speaking, an entirely unknown and unknowable God perhaps doesn't resolve any questions. It simply accepts the unanswerability of those same questions. However, most religious traditions that emphasize apophatic theology also emphasize the idea of personal experience and a practical spiritual path, in which the goal is not so much an abstract conceptual knowledge, or "correct" dogma, but some experience of a fullness of life, which is symbolized as an experience of that Divine aspect of reality. Because they tend to emphasize that direct experience, they tend towards something like panentheism which allows for God to be present in experience, because the world is in God rather than being utterly transcendent. The word spiritual is tricky to define. Etymologically and conceptually I think it's very tied to Christian anthropology, in which a "spiritual" life is being contrasted to the life of the "flesh", but that definition involves a whole bunch of background ideas from a Christian worldview which you may be wishing to shed. My biased and personal opinion is that, from the standpoint of developing an ex-Christian spirituality, it makes sense to think of "being spiritual" in terms of seeking out a full and holistically harmonious way of living, emphasizing the importance of practice over speculative theology. Theological terms like panentheism and pantheism are useful insofar as different theological conceptions give rise to different practices, and for that reason I think an apophatic and panentheistic theology is more useful than the dogmatic monotheism of much western Christianity, but ultimately what matters is finding out who you are, what life means to you, and how to be a whole person. There are many ways in which someone could pursue those aims. Traditional forms of spirituality with these goals often emphasize self-inquiry, meditation, cultivation of virtues like detachment, forgiveness of self and others, kindness, and etc. To me, the goal of most of these practices is first to become aware of our own thoughts and the unconscious fears, prejudices, assumptions, and patterns of thinking that we perpetuate solely because we're unaware of them, despite the fact that they harm us. This is one of the primary purposes of practices like silent meditation. It's a way of becoming more honest with ourselves, become able to forgive ourselves, and out of that increased awareness and wisdom about ourselves flows the ability to treat ourselves and others well. None of this really depends on having a particular theology. That is one of the great insights of Buddhism. You can be an atheist and pursue "spirituality" so defined. It seems to me that, just in terms of human knowledge, many theological conceptions are dubious and unhelpful. I don't think panentheism really "settles the argument about whether God is separate from the universe", it simply proposes that a theology which sees a Divine reality as embracing the world is more useful, which I think is true for a variety of reasons, but it doesn't prove by argument that such a reality exists. In any case, the successes of science, technology, and methodological naturalism broadly speaking challenge traditional theologies and the mythological worldviews that they are embedded in. I think what we are looking for is not so much just a new abstract theology (panentheism, deism, or otherwise) but a new worldview in which to integrate the success of naturalism with humanistic concerns that are addressed by questions like "how do I live a good life?" I think a good place to start answering "How do I become spiritual?" is with practical concerns about life, and let those be the guide, rather than with theology.
  8. Note: When I first read your post, I thought you were suggesting that people should be forced to deconvert in order to become scientists. It seems like on a second reading that might not be what you mean in your last paragraph. It's also not clear that the "should" in the article title (or in the article) really means that either, but I'm going to talk about it as if it did, since I didn't read it until after I wrote this. I think the perspective of the article is perhaps more nuanced. So, It's not strictly necessary to be either militant, or even an atheist, to agree that science, or a naturalistic methodology in general, requires both methodological principles, as well as an epistemology, that are "athestic" (in the sense of non-theistic, rather than anti-theistic; that is -- formulated without reference to gods or religion) in order to be properly naturalistic. But adherence to the methodological requirements doesn't logically require a commitment to atheism in and of itself, although there is certainly a correlation between an appreciation of the value of those principles and atheism in practice. I haven't gone to double check this, but my understanding is that most professional scientists are already atheists, if not always "militant" ones. But, the principle of epistemic humility that is represented by the idea that even plate tectonics and natural selection should be presented as subject to further revision is itself built upon the idea that what matters to science and naturalism is methodology rather than metaphysics. Processes rather than reified answers. It isn't adherence to a dogma that counts but the rigor of process and an epistemology that only allows certain kinds of evidence. It seems to me that the idea in the headline suggests that scientists should be required to make metaphysical commitments, i.e to some strong form of atheism, when those commitments also would amount to accepting a kind of dogmatic position, and one that is itself in tension with the most basic idea of how science proceeds. I would contend that rather scientists should (and do) commit to methodological naturalism, which excludes religious ideology, epistemology, and authority from having any role in scientific investigation. In practice, so to speak, scientists must act in an atheistic way. The difference between the way I'm phrasing it, as a methodological commitment, and how I'm reading this idea, as a commitment to a more strident form of atheism, is that the methodological position is agnostic about whether or not non-scientific methods of approaching the world have any value, it simply excludes them from science. A religious person may be a scientist, it's just that insofar as they do science, they must follow the same objective processes that an atheist must also follow. Going beyond that to a commitment to the idea that only science can have any value, would not itself be a "scientific" commitment but a philosophical one that doesn't, I don't think, really add anything of practical value to science, precisely because the great strength of science is its pragmatism as a method, rather than an ideology. I also think it might be attempting to solve a problem that doesn't really exist. The problem isn't that there are real scientists doing unscientific work under the influence of religious convictions, but more so that so many people don't really understand what science is, how it works, or why it's valuable, and many fundamentalists who want to present non-scientific explanations of the world, like Intelligent Design, as if they were "scientific". But those people are already not doing science, and generally act outside of the apparatus of scientific institutions. So I don't think the problem is that more scientists should be atheists, but that more people need to understand science and why methodological naturalism is valuable regardless of whether or not gods exist.
  9. Given that we (usually correctly, imo) deal with atheism as a description about belief in the truth of a particular class of propositions (the existence of deities), it seems reasonable to define theism in a parallel way, since atheism is (logically speaking) a lack of theism. Given those definitions, theism "in and of itself" has no more to do with human social needs than atheism does, since by this definition "theism" is also not, properly speaking, a religion, but a description of a category of belief. The vast majority of religions are theistic but the terms capture distinct meanings. This is all very nit-picky but the question in the OP does depend on the definitions, and it doesn't seem helpful to define atheism using the narrowest definition possible while defining theism basically as a synonym of western Christianity, especially if it is being done in order to emphasize the difference between atheism, widely construed, as a social phenomena from theism via its manifestations in various particular religions. I think it's better to just note that the social and psychological needs the OP discusses don't really hinge on theism vs atheism insofar as they exist as needs, but are just more fundamentally human. That said, while the needs themselves may be more basic than a question of deities, there are certainly differences between how most theistic worldviews approach those needs and how atheistic worldviews might do so. But, in order to compare theism and atheism in this regard, you have to deal with an actual concrete religion or particular atheistic worldview. The attitude of a catholic monk of the Carthusian order is going to be quite distinct from a southern Baptist, and again from a Tibetan Buddhist or a Sri Vaishnava Hindu, all of which may be both similar and distinct in various ways from someone who self-identifies as a secular humanist, a dialectical materialist, or even an atheist Zen Buddhist. Part of the problem is that there are fewer well defined atheistic cultures than theistic ones, and so the comparison is less direct. But maybe we should be comparing Southern Baptists to the culture of a mostly atheistic Scandinavian country, or members of a secular organization. The point is that the culture and social factors which are important to how people think about and experience their need for belonging are much larger than "atheism" and "theism" as descriptions. After that point is made, it's interesting for example that traditionally the Abrahamic religions will conceive of those needs in the context of their views on salvation and "the people of God", and that consideration is far more important internally to the group than "belonging", even though the community satisfies that need also, whereas that stance may not arise in the same way in a Buddhist sangha, and almost certainly not in the same way for members of an atheist meetup group in the United States.
  10. In modern English, the word "sin" has a decidedly religious connotation, but it seems worth pointing out that the specialization of the terminology in English is something of a modern development. The greek ἁμαρτια (hamartia) as a word denoting a fault, "to have missed the mark" in some sense, is used in pre-Christian Greek literature and philosophy, and there are functionally equivalent terms in most languages (cf. papa in sanscrit). So if we wanted to try to give some general definition of "sin", given the variety of understandings, it would seem like a good place to start is that "sin" is defined in relation to some particular understanding of ethics. It's true that historically the majority of ethical systems are closely tied to the metaphysics and mythology of religions, but it is not therefore necessary that morality and ethics be explicitly theistic or even religious, although it seems likely that views about morality in general will be relative to some overarching worldview. So, in Christianity, the understanding of morality is based on the idea of the fall of humanity: "original sin", however conceptualized. In the Dharmic religions it's understood in relation to karma and dharma, however constructed. There are numerous variations. Atheists of course also have ethics and some sort of perception about morality, whether defined in a systematic way in reference to particular institutions ("the law") or cultural norms, in reference to evolutionary biology, or however. Regardless of the background construction, we might define the verb "to sin" as "to commit a violation of a moral or ethical norm", where the verb is always relative to whatever norms are in consideration. In other words, we don't have to solve all the philosophical problems of meta-ethics, or decide that there is One True Moral Code in order to speak about someone commiting a fault. Because of that, I might say that the above is true (from an anthropological perspective at least) but it doesn't follow that: Assuming that you have internalized some moral and ethical ideas that are important to you, you might meaningfully concerned about sinning against your own moral code, without having tied the term to any sort of metaphysics of hell or eternal damnation or divine forgiveness. We might also, of course, choose to use a different word in order to avoid all of those connotations. Whether or not your moral views are useful to you, healthy, reasonable, or etc. is a different question, but given the nature of human beings as social creatures, it seems perfectly reasonable to want to "rescue" morality from being a purely religious phenomena. It is a human phenomena, and an important one. An ex-Christian may rightly and usefully free themselves from the moral norms of some particular sect of Christianity, especially where they are toxic, but still be concerned about ethics in a way that goes beyond an acknowledgement of local legal institutions.
  11. One thing that fascinates me is that the "omnipotence" of medieval Christian theology, which gives rise to all the various paradoxes, as well as in some way the various problems of evil, is probably not a good representation of the earliest Christian belief, or at least it requires a lot of nuance. Essentially, omnipotens is a latin translation of the Greek pantokrator, and where that word is used in the Septuagint (which almost certainly influenced its usage in the N.T.), it's a translation of Hebrew terms like El Shaddai or YHWH Sabaoth. Neither pantokrator, El Shaddai, or YHWH Sabaoth directly denote anything like the logical omnipotence of medieval or modern philosophical concern. Shaddai seems to be used as a proper name for God in the oldest biblical texts, as well as being the name of a canaanite god, and is based on a root that means something like "to overpower", or "strength". the kratos of pantokrator also means strength. YHWH Sabaoth is also more of a proper name, conventionally translated as "lord of hosts". In the context of their original usages, these names and titles don't have such an abstract philosophical connotation, but seem more like the kind of language used to describe the relatively "absolute" authority of a monarch. In other words, within cultures where political and social power was concentrated in a single ruler who is certainly not logically omnipotent but has an absolute authority over the realm, God is seen as the "king of kings", the "absolute" ruler over not just the kingdom but "the heavens and the earth". Early monotheism is heavily influenced by the primacy of monarchy as a social order, rather than by the more philosophical speculations of later theology. The article about the omnipotence paradox refers a bit to this view in its description of the fifth type of omnipotence ("Y is almighty"). None of this is meant to dismiss the power of the paradox, but it's interesting to me to see the differences in view that developed over time. There has never really been a static "Christian theology", but rather a whole host of theologies with very different focuses and foundations, from Paul to the early Greek church fathers, to the ecumenical councils, to medieval scholasticism, the enlightenment and protestant reformation, and etc.
  12. I agree. I'm curious as to why he says he's "Christian-ish" though. I'm not sure what this means. I'd like to know what he actually believes and why. wellnamed? Care to elaborate? (Not trying to attack, just curious). I was baptized in the eastern orthodox church and I would describe myself as being "theistic" in my worldview at least in comparison to something like the mainstream metaphysical naturalism of most western atheists. That said, my "theism" is heavily apophatic, influenced by Buddhism (mainly pratityasamutpada), Hinduism (the Brahman of the Upanishads, Vedanta), and certain philosophical ideas (mainly Raimon Panikkar's cosmotheandricism) and my point of view doesn't really have much in common with modern western Christianity. I still describe it as "Christian-ish" because the mystical theology of ancient Christian theologians is meaningful to me, as is a lot of Christian symbology. But it's fair to say I'm rather idiosyncratic, allergic to dogmatism, and I'm also a universalist. So, if you will, I am an atheist with regard to the common western Christian concept of God, especially the fundamentalist version, but not quite an atheist if you're comparing me to Sam Harris. That's a rather condensed description and probably inadequate but I'm happy to elaborate
  13. I've always thought this passage is quite damning of Christians in general: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) Especially taken alongside "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet." (Matthew 5:13)
  14. The KCA (and related cosmological or ontological arguments) is not a strong argument but I agree that in terms of what the original metaphysical question "why is there something rather than nothing?" is trying to get at, i.e the problem of Being and Nothingness, the quantum vacuum with its associated probabilities of the spontaneous generation of particles isn't really the "nothing" it has in mind, although its existence points out that the ontology assumed by the usual formulation of the question might be insufficient? What is interesting to me is that I think the question itself may be (philosophically) meaningless. By which I mean that it's not clear that we even know what we're asking, or that there is a meaningful possibility of an answer. Essentially, in order for a question to be meaningful, we have to already have some idea of the space of responses which would count as meaningful answers. A meaningful question conditions and limits the scope of the possible answers. But "non-existence" is not necessarily even coherent as a concept within some dialectical argument. Beyond that, I think when we ask "why?" the question presupposes that there is some context broader than the phenomena in question which will give meaning to the phenomena by placing it in that larger context. If I ask "why did you go to the store?" the question assumes some larger context involving your motivations and human life in which the answer "I was out of milk" will make sense as an answer. But whatever the "ultimate" context is, and "the universe" may certainly be it, it's then impossible to meaningfully ask "why?" about it, because we have no idea of any larger context in which an answer would fit. This is basically the observation that renders the ontological argument as an explanation less than useful. First you ask "why does the universe exist?" and answer that "God created it", with God providing a larger context. But then you ask "why does God exist?" and there can be no meaningful answer given the definition of God as ultimate, because there could be no more fundamental ground in which to situate an answer. From a naturalistic standpoint, if the universe itself is ultimate, then in the same way its existence would seem to just be a matter of brute fact, and the tendency to ask these kinds of questions a kind of over-extrapolation of the principle of sufficient reason.
  15. fwiw Orbit and I were just hanging out the other night and I signed up here on a lark because I know some of you, and I appreciate your compliments and I think you're great also ... but I really don't have any desire to interfere with the mission of the site to encourage and support people deconverting (which, in probably more cases than you might guess by the "christian (ish)" tag, I would even support!), and I do intend to try to be careful in how I post and what opinions I offer, since I'm sort of an interloper. In any case, TF, if you made that post because I'm overstepping the bounds please do feel free to yell at me, I can take it.
  16. You misunderstand me, I mean that in the Greek text of 1 Cor 13:12, the word translated as "darkly" is ainigmati. I'm using the 28th edition Nestle-Aland Greek N.T. but you can also see here: http://biblehub.com/interlinear/1_corinthians/13.htm edit: I don't disagree about multiple meanings of course, and κόσμος is a good example of it, but I wasn't trying to say that in an EN->GR dictionary you'd find "darkly" rendered as "enigma", but only that the verse in question uses enigma, which I think sheds a lot of light on the meaning.
  17. Dropping by to say I love Gödel's incompleteness theorum in your sig.

  18. The word darkly is, in the Greek, αἴνιγματι (ainigmati), that is: "in enigmas". I don't know that the entire phrase in Greek is borrowed, but from what I've read, enigma is at least something of a technical term in Greek rhetoric, referring to the idea of anagogical/allegorical or otherwise obscure meanings in a philosophical or hermeneutical context. It has always seemed to me that a lot of the possible nuance of "enigma" is lost in the translation to "darkly", even if it's supposed to suggest something like "obscure". I'm afraid I can't find an easy source to cite for this on the internet; I was introduced to this idea in commentaries on Gregory of Nyssa's work, for example: here Gregory uses the term and references this passage in his justification for reading various scriptural texts in an allegorical way without too much concern for its "literal" or "historical" meaning, or the aims of the original author. So for instance he gives such readings to the life of Moses in Exodus as well as the Song of Solomon. In the context of 1 Corinthians 13, and given Paul's other nods to Greek philosophy, it seems reasonable to think the allusion to Greek rhetoric is intentional. Alongside Johannine assertions about the invisibility of God and Paul's usage of the word "mystery", as well as the way the chapter relates love and knowledge, it seems clear that it is intended to state that human epistemic knowledge of the divine is limited, and that love as a practical virtue is more fundamentally important than "correct" knowledge, and given that it follows and expands on a chapter encouraging church unity, the point would seem to be that making "correct" knowledge a more important criteria than love is a mistake in Paul's opinion. And the reason it is a mistake is because our knowledge is obscured. It would seem to me to be a pretty clear warning against a lack of humility regarding knowledge.
  19. Yes, the injunction to be complete is in the present tense, and it's certainly the case that in the immediate context being complete is supposed to involve adopting a rather austere moral attitude towards oneself, while forgiving and overlooking the perceived faults of others. It may already qualify as an impossible standard. But in any case, the injunction is not to be absolutely flawless or sinless, as it is sometimes read, but such a reading doesn't really make much sense in context with the N.T. No argument here. There are many reasons why the naive view of biblical inerrancy or divine authorship is untenable.
  20. Without wanting to dispute the general claim that western Christian culture causes many Christians to struggle with self-esteem issues unnecessarily, which I think is undoubtedly true, it's interesting to me that at least in reference to this verse it's a modern misunderstanding of the text caused by gradual changes in the connotation of the word "perfect" The greek word translated here as "perfect" is τέλειος (teleios; cf. telos), which means to be complete; to reach the final state, or maturity, or an end or goal. The translation into the english "perfect" is meant to carry those meanings, but the modern usage of "perfect" tends to mean "flawless",which is not implied by teleios. Telos is a relative concept, so that the telos of any given thing is specific to the kind of thing, and the word itself does not contain the idea that human completeness amounts to a kind of sinless flawlessness. In fact, such an idea doesn't even make sense in the context of the Sermon on the Mount's emphasis on forgiveness and the immediately preceding injunction to love your enemies.
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