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#770206 - 02/26/05 01:56 PM Re: To Christians
Jeffrey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/04
Posts: 2948
Loc: New York
Dwain: "perfectly good, perfectly merciful, perfectly just, perfectly true."

For this statement to make sense (literally, to have meaning in the language you are speaking), you must accept that there is a standard of right and wrong, independent of God's say so. Otherwise saying "God is perfectly good, just, merciful" etc. is only to state the tautology "God says what God says". Again, if the definition of justice is "what God commands" then the statement "God is just" translates to "God does what God commands" - not a particularly interesting statement.

There is no content to the statement "God is just and merciful" unless the words "just" and "merciful" have meaning independent of God's will. This simple matter of logic and language was pointed out by Plato in the Euthyphro about 2500 years ago.

This means, however, that humans can use the terms "just" and "good" and "merciful" without reference to God's will, and they have meaning independent of God's will. (If you don't accept this statement, then you must accept that the phrase "God is just" does not ascribe him or her any property other than doing what he or she wants. Cruelty and sadism would be good, if God wanted, there being no meaning to the terms good or just outside of God's will.)

If humans can make use moral terms independent of knowledge of the divine will, then we can judge what is right or wrong without reference to revealed scripture. Again, this is a matter of simple logic that has not been in dispute by philosophers since the time of Plato. Otherwise saying "Scripture reveals the truth" is a tautology.

Therefore, you cannot simply say that homosexuality is wrong because that is how you read revealed scripture. You must give an argument, or properly be accused of serious discrimination. You have not even tried to give a moral argument against homosexuality. You just tell people "God said so." That is not an argument.

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#770207 - 02/26/05 02:07 PM Re: To Christians
Jeffrey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/04
Posts: 2948
Loc: New York
KB: Hope your dialysis goes well. Sounds much worse than my flu.

"My Church (can't speak for every other) makes no case that homosexuals can not be homosexuals, or that discrimination is OK, or accepted, or condoned.
I do appreciate that you will at least attempt to still accept me, as I am still accepting of you and your ideas. But please make no mistake, I do not practice discrimination, condone discrimination, or consider homosexuals in anyway beneath myself. If you continue to logically arrive at the conclusion that I am a bigot, want to disallow some behavior, or in some other way practice discrimination, it is not supported by my ideas, or the facts."

In your church can practicing, open homosexuals participate in your ceremonies without criticism and be elected to higher functions within your church? If yes, then you don't discriminate, if not, you do. You say you don't regard them as beneath yourself (because we are all sinners, etc.) but some sins apparently remove one from church positions, and others do not (unless I am mistaken about the position of homosexuals in your church hierarchy). Some sins are therefore not equal to others.

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#770208 - 02/26/05 02:42 PM Re: To Christians
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
Jeffrey:
sins ARE equal, and anyone unrepentant of a sin is in the same boat.
This removes lots of people from eligibility for clergy service. There is no specific discrimnation against homosexuals, but anyone "living in" or unrepentant of; sin.
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#770209 - 02/26/05 02:42 PM Re: To Christians
Horace Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/04
Posts: 505
 Quote:
Originally posted by KlavierBauer:
I simply feel a bit hurt that regardless of what I tell you I feel, you will still call me a bigot to my face, eventhough I have made it clear that there must be some sort of misunderstanding. Your response is essentially: "No, I understand everything completely, and you're a discriminating bigot".[/b]
Seems to me that the difference between the two viewpoints is that one camp externalizes their thoughts and motivations, and abdicates responsibility for them, by claiming that it's not what they want, but rather what God wants. The validity of being able to do that is the fundamental issue.

It seems to me that Mr. Lee's viewpoint in which God chooses people instead of the other way around, is a pretty good way to defend that it's not what I think, but what God thinks. Without that, I see little reason to grant anybody amnesty from the *practical effect* of their opinions. It was, after all, their choice to begin with.

I would, however, say that labelling Christians "sadistic" is strictly innacurate. Sadism has a specific meaning, which is to derive direct pleasure from causing harm to others. I hardly believe Jeffrey or anybody else honestly believes that about the Christians in this thread. Taking such logic to an extreme, we would have to assume everybody on the planet is sadistic since clearly none of us is living our lives in a perfect manner in which we minimize the harm we cause to other people. IMO, Jeffrey thinks you're ignorant, but not sadistic. Everybody is ignorant to some extent.

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#770210 - 02/26/05 03:12 PM Re: To Christians
Jeffrey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/04
Posts: 2948
Loc: New York
Horace: "IMO, Jeffrey thinks you're ignorant, but not sadistic."

I will change and say that the viewpoint is sadistic in its effects on gays. The people who promote the viewpoint may or may not be sadistic - i.e. get personal pleasure out of the pain their illogical views (not god's views, neither KB nor Dwain have spoken to god recently) cause to others.

"It seems to me that Mr. Lee's viewpoint in which God chooses people instead of the other way around, is a pretty good way to defend that it's not what I think, but what God thinks. Without that, I see little reason to grant anybody amnesty from the *practical effect* of their opinions. It was, after all, their choice to begin with."

Good point. Even more so since people choose their religion.

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#770211 - 02/26/05 03:14 PM Re: To Christians
Jeffrey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/04
Posts: 2948
Loc: New York
KB: "sins ARE equal, and anyone unrepentant of a sin is in the same boat."

Yes, but *your* sexuality isn't a sin and others is. How convenient.


I shall log off this debate, at least for now. More or less everything to say has been said.

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#770212 - 02/26/05 03:22 PM Re: To Christians
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
Jeffrey.... how do Jews articulate the concept of sin?
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accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, ├Ľun (apple in Estonian)

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#770213 - 02/26/05 05:21 PM Re: To Christians
Jeffrey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/04
Posts: 2948
Loc: New York
apple - I am not a practicing Jew, so perhaps others will do better, but I believe the following to not be totally inaccurate:

A sin is an evil choice we make that violates our responsibilities towards ourself, towards others, or towards God. A sin is an immoral choice we make giving into our evil inclinations, not a state of our being or existance from which we need salvation.

Judaism does not have a notion of original sin from which we need to be freed. Humans are in an imperfect state, with the capacity to do good or evil based on their free choice. But overcoming sin (giving into the "evil inclination" - some combination of 'selfishness' or 'ill-will' towards others) is totally and completely a matter of free will and the responsibility of the individual. No external being (for example, God or Jesus) can remove or replace this personal responsibility for moral choice from us (i.e. humans can save themselves solely by their own moral action, rather than Jesus or God saving us).

I believe the Christian concept of original (or "innate") sin starts with Augustine and his interpretation of the Fall from Eden. Jews do not believe in inherited guilt from Adam's choice. We live in an imperfect and hard world as a result of his free choice, but we do not inherit his sin or moral guilt.

I don't know if this answers your question fully or not. Again, a practicing Jew might be able to explain various concepts better than I did.

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#770214 - 02/26/05 05:56 PM Re: To Christians
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
Your description is very Christian actually. Orthodox Christianity does not for the most part subscribe to original or inherited sin. Jesus we believe was fully man, and was able to not sin, so the responsibility is ours.
We do fall short though, and because of that need absolution.
...

I would think the Jewish idea of sin is very cut and dry, as there is written law which when not followed is sinful.
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#770215 - 02/26/05 05:59 PM Re: To Christians
Roi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/24/05
Posts: 166
Loc: The Kingdom of Words
Ah! Religion! What a farce! I must retire now as my senses have been completely baptized, or should I say, submerged in the thickest of waters! Alas!
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#770216 - 02/27/05 08:27 AM Re: To Christians
Jeffrey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/04
Posts: 2948
Loc: New York
KB: "We do fall short though, and because of that need absolution."

I believe that this notion is foreign to Judaism. In Judaism, moral perfection (bringing the coming of the Messiah) is achievable (and can only be achieved) by human moral action alone.

Also, Judaism has little emphasis on or discussion of the afterlife. There is an afterlife, but it is not the reason for moral action. The reason for doing a moral action is intrinsic - we do it because it is right, not because it leads to salvation.

One implication of this is that salvation is not limited to Jews only. I believe that Baptists deny salvation to non-Baptists (if you ain't dunked you are sunk, or something like that). Calvinists think that salvation ultimatly occurs solely as a result of God's grace or election (not exclusively via human action). I've had debates with Catholics over the phrase "no salvation outside the Church". Depending on how you understand that, it might be possible, on the Catholic view, for a non-Catholic to be saved or not. I am not familiar with the differences between the Orthodox and Catholic views on this matter. Perhaps you can explain them.

At any rate, being moral, not being Jewish, is the precondition for going to heaven under Judaism. Even hell is usually thought of as a temporary place (sort of like purgatory), where justice is meeted out for wickedness on earth.

"I would think the Jewish idea of sin is very cut and dry, as there is written law which when not followed is sinful."

This strikes me as a simplification or distortion. Perhaps a believing Jew can answer. My understanding is that following the rules and traditions of Judaism are one way to rack up "mitzvah" or good deeds, but that they do not totally encompass our moral obligations, nor are all our moral obligations written down in the Torah. For example, all the rules about "wicked speech" (on which there is a quite extensive Talmudic discussion) are not simply extrapolations from the law codes of Numbers and Deuteronomy. Also, there is a ruling that if there is a conflict between the human law of the Talmud and the revealed law of the Torah, the human law (as derived by the reasoning of the sages in the Talmud) wins. In short, the Jewish tradition accepts that all divine "revelation" (even of a law code) requires extensive interpretation by humans, and is therefore ultimately a human construction. Reason, not revelation, is the ultimate arbiter.

How does this relate to apple's original question about sin? Sin in Judaism is simply moral error. This does seem quite different from the conceptions of sin in Baptist or Calvinist theology, and I think in Catholic as well.

In Christian theology Christ "died for our sins". This simply makes no sense on the Jewish view of sin. It is a non sequitor. Moral action is a result of personal choice and free will only. No one else (even Jesus) can do anything (even die) to modify or change that responsibility.

These are some of the differences as I understand them.

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#770217 - 02/27/05 10:24 AM Re: To Christians
Dwain Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 2419
Loc: Columbus, Ohio
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jeffrey:
Dwain: "perfectly good, perfectly merciful, perfectly just, perfectly true."

For this statement to make sense (literally, to have meaning in the language you are speaking), you must accept that there is a standard of right and wrong, independent of God's say so. [/b]
Not at all, because in a large sense, I agree with essential truth of your follow-up statement:

 Quote:
Otherwise saying "God is perfectly good, just, merciful" etc. is only to state the tautology "God says what God says". Again, if the definition of justice is "what God commands" then the statement "God is just" translates to "God does what God commands" - not a particularly interesting statement. [/b]
I don't necessarily care whether the comment is interesting or not, only that it is what I believe to be true. Still, I'll explain what I mean in detail below.

 Quote:
There is no content to the statement "God is just and merciful" unless the words "just" and "merciful" have meaning independent of God's will. This simple matter of logic and language was pointed out by Plato in the Euthyphro about 2500 years ago. [/b]
My experience with Plato is somewhat limited, but what I have read of him I generally appreciate and enjoy. However, Plato's philosophy when relating to concepts of God had one critical limitation, and therefore, flaw. His reasoning was hobbled by the fact that his concepts of God were based in the concept of God - or more precisely, the gods - of ancient Greek culture. These gods were never conceived as infinite, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc., as the Christian eternal God. In short, the Greek gods were nothing more than larger versions of humans. Each had a magical power, skill, or attribute, but their personalities were actually nothing more than larger scale versions of imperfect human nature.

So, if regarding the gods with whom Plato philosophized about - and found wanting - his logical argument may indeed have been valid. But the argument does not hold if considering the Judeo/Christian God, whose being and attributes exceed those of the greek gods, as the greeks themselves defined them.

The concept of God who is perfectly good, just, truthful, merciful, etc. can be thought of in this manner.

Let's consider the concept of "Good." Imagine a scale, a spectrum if you will. At the one end of the scale is "that in which there is absolutely nothing good; the abslolute lack of the presence of any good whatsoever." On would then move through the spectrum to places that might be described, "very little good," "somewhat good," "good", "very good," extremely good," and so on. Continuing to the most extrem end of the upper end of the scale would be something maybe called, "that which is entirely good; that of which nothing can be even slightly more good." Under Christian belief, the word used to define that point is God. And the reason that the concept of "good" makes any sense (in the literal sense you've mentioned) to humans is not because it is some arbitrary concept independent from or separate from God; but that God has given us a finite portion and understanding of the concept, as part of God's creation of the human being.

The same scale, with similar points along the way, could be made for the concepts of mercy, truth, and justice. And again, Christian belief is that human ability to understand these concepts is not arbitrary or independent, but is instilled in us by the God who is the culmination, the perfect embodiment, of them.

Just as various longitudinal lines mark the globe, and each starts from different points, they all eventually merge at one common point, which defines the ultimate end of all of them. In regard to these attributes, while they all have distinct and different meanings, they all untlimately converge on that one, precise point with the exact same definition: God.

In many ways, Plato was on the right track, but didn't go far enough.

 Quote:
...(If you don't accept this statement, then you must accept that the phrase "God is just" does not ascribe him or her any property other than doing what he or she wants. [/b]
You're right, I agree entirely with that - because, as God is defined as that being who is perfectly truthful, merciful, just, etc., it is impossible for God to do anything that is not truthful, merciful, or just. And to the Christian, if God decrees a thing or an act to be good, then it is good. If he decrees it to be bad, then it is bad. That is what defines good and bad.

 Quote:
Cruelty and sadism would be good, if God wanted, there being no meaning to the terms good or just outside of God's will.)[/b]
Again, this is an impossible hypothetical which is therefore impossible to debate. The key problem with your scenario is that you attempt to judge any decision of position of God by a human standard of understanding of concepts of good, bad, mercy, justice, etc. While we can only understand any subject within the limits of finite humanity, a Christian believes that there is a higher, more complete, infinite level of understanding, and that God being the infinite One, God's actions are only fully understood on an infinite level - and therefore, by definition, apprehendable but not fully comprehensible to us.

 Quote:
If humans can make use moral terms independent of knowledge of the divine will, then we can judge what is right or wrong without reference to revealed scripture. [/b]
See above. As indicated above, the Christian position is that humans can only apprehend a finite portion, not the totality of these concepts, and those portions that are apprehendable are possible only because of their exposition, their having been granted to us, by the ultimate definition of the concepts and the creator of the human being - that, in short, it is not independent of the divine will at all, whether the creature realizes this reality or not.

 Quote:
Therefore, you cannot simply say that homosexuality is wrong because that is how you read revealed scripture. You must give an argument, or properly be accused of serious discrimination. You have not even tried to give a moral argument against homosexuality. You just tell people "God said so." That is not an argument. [/b]
I certainly can say that I believe engaging in homosexual acts is wrong based on my interpretation of revealed scripture if I believe such. Whether you accept it or not is up to you. I do not need to give an argument - in fact, I've repeatedly stated that I will not make an argument to you as to why you should believe as I do, I will only explain why I believe as I do. And it doesn't bother me particularly if a person who does not believe as I do views my beliefs to be bigoted, or views me as a bigot. I'm OK with that, since I know it to be untrue, and the accuser's definition of bigotry to be flawed.

Now...

I tried to disengage from this thread a while back, and returned to reply to your post to me, because I enjoy discussing things with you. But, I've already stolen time away from work and family to post as much as I have in recent days. I have a busy work week coming up, and evening events almost every night. Plus, I'm doing the "visiting preacher" thing for a local congregation next Sunday, and I have to prepare for that. I'll be happy to have further conversations with you another time, but I've got to break off this one for now. Feel free to reply and have the "last word," as it were; otherwise, I've got to leave the conversation up to you, ivory, KB, RZ, and others.

Best,

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#770218 - 02/27/05 10:42 AM Re: To Christians
Jeffrey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/04
Posts: 2948
Loc: New York
Dwain - Thanks for your reply. All I can say is read Plato's Euthyphro. There is a basic logical flaw in your argument, one pointed out by Plato 2500 years ago. You cannot define God as "just" or "merciful" if in turn "just" and "merciful" are defined by God's will. It is a circular definition, under which cruelty would be good, if it was God's will.

Plato's argument does not depend on the common Greek understanding of the gods. Plato specifically and directly addressed the conception of a god you are talking about.

Best - Jeffrey

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#770219 - 02/27/05 11:26 AM Re: To Christians
RZ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/05/04
Posts: 515
Loc: Anaheim, CA
Concerning Plato and Christianity.

Plato did not connect his theory of Forms with the Greek gods. Indeed, he simply believed that all things had an ideal Form -- be they natural things such as trees and rocks or what was to him the highest of Forms, values. Plato believed that all men sought out the good and that the good was found in the ideal Forms he postulated existed.

Plato believed that the Forms existed separate from the world as we experience it. Because of this, he did not believe that all could come to an understanding of these Forms, even though all sought them out. Most experienced only shadows of the reality of the Forms, the world in which we live being just a shadow of the ideal Forms.

Plato did believe, however, that there are a few who could come to true knowledge of these Forms and those that did should be the ones who rule -- because they understood the true nature of existence and the good, and were not hampered by an imperfect understanding like most people were. Thus, they could lead the people in compliance with the ideal, which Plato believed is what the people sought anyway. Hence, the people would be led to happiness and satisfaction, even if it was imperfect because they could not experience them totally.

Augustine was the early Church Father who best applied the Platonic ideal to Christianity, in essense identifying God as the entity in which these ideal Forms were to be found. Just as Plato believed that all seek out the good, Augustine believed that all seek God and are only satisfied when God, the good, is achieved. Hence, his famous statement "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."

Augustine also agreed with Plato's concept government -- the rule of those who had come to experience and understand the good. Hence, he argued for and supported a hierarchical Church, one in which those who understood God, the good, ruled. The structure of the Christian Church through the Reformation was based on this Platonic concept; the Roman Church continuing to be structured in this way.

Aristotle, of course, disagreed with Plato on how we come to understand these Forms. He believed Plato to be wrong in saying that the Forms cannot be understood through the natural world or human existence. He argued that they exist within the world we experience and that if we study and understand the universe, we come to understand the Ideal and find the good.

Throughout the Middle Ages, when the Greek texts were lost, religion and hence society, was based on the Platonic concepts, as "baptized" by Augustine. However, with the rediscovery of the ancient Greek texts during the Renaissance, Aristotle's theories gained ground.

Perhaps the greatest Christian theologian since Augustine, Thomas Aquinas disagreed with the Platonic underpinnings of the then-accepted theology and applied the Aristotelian theories to Christianity, showing through his writings how to find the eternal truths through an understanding of experience and the universe.

In more ways than not, the current battles we argue today continue to be the disagreement between Plato and Aristotle.

There are those who hold a Platonic view that God, the good, is found outside of human existence and that the highest Forms, those of values, exist outside of human experience -- but are the goal of human experience. Those who adhere to a concept of unchanging values to which human beings must adhere are arguing Platonic philosophy.

Then there are those, who argue that a greater understanding of the human experience and the universe, will bring us to a greater understanding of the good, that which is right. The greater the knowledge we have of existence, the more we understand what is good and what is not, hence greater knowledge mandates a change in the idea of how values are to be lived.

Thus, from a religious sense, this ever increasing human understanding brings about a fuller understanding of the eternal revelation of God, as Aristotle would argue, while those who believe that our understanding of revelation is complete and hence our moral responsibilities and actions must not change are Platonic in their views.

From a non-religious standpoint, Plato tends to become irrelevant and Aristotle becomes the basis upon which we determine morality. In a strictly humanist understanding, there is no God per se, and we come to understand man's responsibilitiues through understanding human experience and the world in which we live.

If you read all of the various discussions about religion and values on this Board -- and follow the debates about values currently going on in our society -- it is easy to see the Platonic/Aristotelian debate continuing. Dwain and those who believe as he does are more Platonic in their views than Aristotelian. Jeffrey and those who think as he does, on the other hand, are far more Aristotelian.

Plato and Aristotle have been going at it for 2500 years and they are likely to to continue their argument for another 2500 years.

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#770220 - 02/27/05 11:38 AM Re: To Christians
Jeffrey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/04
Posts: 2948
Loc: New York
RZ - At the time Plato wrote the Euthyphro, the theory of Forms (and he had several different versions throughout his life) was not even developed. I simply suggested that one dialogue, for its logical point about DCM morality. At best, your description is a highly distorted summary of Republic, Book 5. How do you account for the Parmenides? Or the Theatetus??

The rest of your description has almost nothing to do with either Plato's or Aristotle's views.

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#770221 - 02/28/05 10:17 AM Re: To Christians
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
Hello, sorry I was away for the weekend.

I hope the time off suited us all well. \:\)

 Quote:
Also, Judaism has little emphasis on or discussion of the afterlife. There is an afterlife, but it is not the reason for moral action. The reason for doing a moral action is intrinsic - we do it because it is right, not because it leads to salvation.
Jeffrey, I am trying not to use the word "misunderstanding" because I know you don't like it. But Christianity does not believe that you do what's right to attain salvation.
The reason for doing moral action is intrinsic. Out of love for God, and wanting to do what is right we try to live better lives... not for salvation.

Later in your post you list differences between different denominations in the Christian Church. But most churches that I know (or denominations) that are considered part of the Catholic (or Universal) Christian church would consider other people in other denominations Christian.
In other words, all of the examples you cited are basically saying the same thing. Catholics aren't saying you have to be Catholic, and baptists aren't saying you have to be a baptist (being baptized does not make you a baptist, as all Christian churches believe in baptism).

While all of these denominations may differ on these points, the basics of the religion are the same.
Are you familiar with the Nicene Creed? This is really a better measure of what Christians as a whole believe, and is a better measuring stick than individual practices of different denominations.
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