Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Apr 13, 2014 3:54 pm

MinotaurforAslan wrote:I bring them up because for the entirety of my Christian life experience, I've learned about Jesus through the tried and true 4 Gospels that everybody knows and loves...Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

However, that's a rather sparse amount of material to learn about literally the most influential human in all of history (a fact that stands regardless of your religion)! The Canonical Gospels have the aura of divine infallibility that makes them so very beloved. But certainly, that doesn't mean that the non-canonical Gospels are completely false and inaccurate! There could potentially be something to learn from them.

For example, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas contains a narrative of Jesus's life from age 5 to 12. Reading it was utterly fascinating for me, as Jesus's childhood had always been a blank spot in the traditional Gospel narrative of his life, save for the lone story about finding him in the temple.


The 4 main Gospels talk about what makes the world think that Jesus was the long-prophesied Messiah, his ministry and what he said and did. Jesus was raised like any other Jewish boy who would be circumcised a week or so after his birth, the Jewish equivalent of a christening, and at the age of 12 or so, would undergo his Bar Mitzvah, which is the Jewish equivalent of the Anglican and Roman Catholic confirmation ceremonies. In contrast to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which has some cute stories in it, the 4 main Gospels only mention the most public events of Jesus' childhood which could be more easily verified.

I was reading the latest edition of Archaeological Diggings which has an article about Daniel, the Old Testament Prophet. There was an earlier one, in Dec-Jan, about how Daniel was not only a contemporary of Belshazzar and Cyrus the Mede, who toppled Nebuchadnezzar II's Babylonian Empire. The author of the article wanted to show archaeological proof that Daniel was also a credible eyewitness to the events related in the book, having been also mentioned in the archaeological sources available as a highly placed palace official.

This latest article discusses Daniel's prophecy about Jesus, correlating material from Ezekiel, and how the Dead Sea Scrolls also contained a copy of the book of Daniel which dates to at least 100 years before the birth of Christ. It seems that Daniel's prophecy, also called the forbidden prophecy, accurately dates the coming of the Messiah to the time when Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, and then commenced his ministry.

That is the significance of baptism, that it washes away the sins of the past and renews the life of the repentant sinner, in the sight of God. At the christening of a baby, when it is also named, the child is being brought into the Church. In the christening ceremony, a sacrament for both Catholic and may be immersed in the christening font, or the minister may just trace with his wetted fingers the symbol of the Cross on the baby's forehead.

Parents and godparents (sponsors) make promises on behalf of the child, to rear him and her in the Christian faith and later on, when a child is a teenager, he or she may want to be confirmed. The ceremony of confirmation involves a course of preparation where the tenets of the church are discussed and learned. A confirmee must know the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Apostle's Creed, and also the Catechism. Confirmation is taking upon oneself the promises made at one's christening, by parents and godparents. In the Anglican church afterwards, one can then take communion, but in the Catholic church First communion is taken much earlier, when children reach primary school age.

Confirmation, or so I believe, is the equivalent of baptism in the Anglican church, but it has also been a rite of passage, like the Jewish bar or bat mitzvah, or like the Catholic First communion. I am aware there have been discussions about whether confirmation should be deferred until the confirmee is of an age to know what is really meant by "giving up the sins of the flesh", which is more likely to happen when the confirmee is an adult and has come in contact with said "sins of the flesh".

I am aware that people who are Baptists or Adventists do practise baptism in a bathtub, but, apart from the bathtub I saw in a local Baptist church, where my daughters were members of the Girls Brigade, I am not aware of what goes on, what the ceremony is like, or what preparation is needed for this church sacrament. Is it done when someone is adult? Or is it a routine part of becoming an adult and member of the church?

I don't like the total immersion of babies in a bathtub in a draughty and often cold church. Yes, that is far too young, I agree, and the baby might need better care, especially if not a robust child.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby King_Erlian » Apr 14, 2014 1:59 am

I started going to a Baptist church when I was 17 (I hardly ever went to church before then). I was baptised about seven months after I started attending and about four months after I prayed the formulaic "ask Jesus into my life" prayer. It wasn't a bathtub I was baptised in, more like a miniature swimming pool at the front of the church - sections of the floor could be removed to reveal the pool underneath.

I wasn't an adult - I was still only 17, and some of the people baptised at my church were a few years younger, though I don't recall anyone younger than 14 being baptised. I don't know whether there was a minimum age rule, but I don't think there was. Some people were baptised much older of course - occasionally people in their sixties or even older would be baptised. It certainly wasn't considered a "rite of passage" into adulthood. Rather, it was encouraged as an outward sign of commitment, not so much to the church as to Jesus himself. In preparation, I had a few talks with the minister and other church elders to ensure that I was sincere in my profession of faith, and that I understood basic ideas about sin and forgiveness, and believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

These days I'm a Quaker and I tend to play down the significance of the "ask Jesus into my life" prayer and the act of baptism. I was certainly sincere at the time but now I see them as steps along the path rather than the massive life-transforming events I was taught to believe they were back then. To paraphrase Adrian Plass, I think becoming a Christian isn't as important as learning to be one.

As for receiving the Holy Spirit, don't get me started on that one. I was psychologically and spiritually damaged by aggressive "get-filled-with-the-Holy-Spirit" types during the first few years after I began attending church, and now any talk about exercising the Gifts of the Spirit makes me shudder.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby King_Erlian » Apr 16, 2014 4:59 am

The Old Maid wrote:Many teachers will say that “sin and sin nature aren’t just things that we do; they are things that we are.” That is, a belief in Original Sin or a similar understanding—that you don’t have to do or fail to do anything specific to not be in right relationship with God. Coyotes don’t give birth to zebras, and sinners (including sinners saved by grace through faith) don’t give birth to the sinless.

As harsh as this approach is, it does solve certain problems. I don’t mean the believer/non-believer debates such as “why does the toddler who bit his father, hit his mother, and pushed his baby sibling’s stroller down the stairs get to go to Heaven, while Gandhi gets to go to Hell” … more like the debates about when and why children could lose a free ticket to Heaven if it’s so free. That kind of debate. Debates such as to whether children who would have received eternal life if they died young but are somehow stripped of eternal life if they live even a month longer. Are they born saved, or even conceived saved, and then eventually get un-saved, stripped of salvation, and have to get saved again and get it right this time?

Speaking as a Devil's Advocate (though I wish there were a more theologically-sound term!), since I don't hold strong views one way or the other, one could say that a child doesn't start off as "saved" and then become "unsaved" so much as starts off as "pure" and is "lost" when he or she sins for the first time, which has to be an act of the child's own will. For one thing, it makes understanding Jesus' position a lot simpler: if he inherited Original Sin through his bloodline and was therefore under God's wrath for that, even though he hadn't sinned himself, then he would have needed to be saved before he could save anyone else. If God somehow blocked Original Sin at the moment of Jesus' conception or birth (whichever is the correct point), then why couldn't he do that with all of us, or why couldn't he have done that with Adam and Eve's children so that Adam and Eve would have been the only ones to have died in sin? On the other hand, if everyone starts out "clean" and is only lost when he or she starts sinning, then Jesus remained clean, although he had the potential to sin and was tempted to do so.

I imagine the problem with this argument is that it opens up the possibility that someone else might, just through conscious effort on their own part, refrain from sin throughout their lives and thus be "saved" without any help from Jesus. But even if it were conceivable in theory, I think it's a safe bet that it simply wouldn't happen in practice. If the odds against something happening are 10-to-the-googleplex-to-1 against, at what point do we cross from saying something is improbable to saying that it's impossible?

I appreciate what The Old Maid says about the toddler who beats up his baby brother being "saved", though I would have thought that if he is consciously, by his own will, doing things like that, then he's already sinning, even if he doesn't yet know what "sin" is. The flip side of the coin is that if people are born (or even conceived) "lost" because of Original Sin, then babies who die in the womb or just a minute or two after birth go to Hell, even though they haven't done anything; if Hell is simply destruction, then it's as if they'd never lived and their lives have no meaning; if Hell is everlasting torment, then they're being tortured just because they've inherited Original Sin from their parents.

As I said, I don't have strong opinions about the subject one way or the other. I'm interested to know what the Biblical basis for Original Sin is.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Apr 16, 2014 4:54 pm

I believe the origin for the ideas of Original Sin is in Genesis, in the section after Noah and his family finally reached dry land, when a rainbow shone in the sky. Rainbows are a bit mystical, aren't they? Rainbows are colourful, beautiful and lift one's spirits to see them. Looking at a rainbow-bathed Fremantle, with Perth behind it, from Rottnest Island is to see a magical, almost mythical city. No wonder the Aborigines thought of rainbows in terms of the Rainbow Serpent, a being they saw as creating the world.

I get the idea that God then thought that drowning everyone else in Noah's family's immediate vicinity would be enough vengeance for that time, and that there would have to be other solutions to the problem of widespread sinfulness. There are other references to original sin, elsewhere in the Old Testament Torah and the Prophets, of babies being born in original sin.

King_Erlian wrote:These days I'm a Quaker and I tend to play down the significance of the "ask Jesus into my life" prayer and the act of baptism. I was certainly sincere at the time but now I see them as steps along the path rather than the massive life-transforming events I was taught to believe they were back then. To paraphrase Adrian Plass, I think becoming a Christian isn't as important as learning to be one.


I think you are right. It is a matter of forgiving and being forgiven by others, of learning to think less of oneself and more of seeing others as people who suffer as well. Of having an understanding of justice and mercy, recompensing those who have been hurt by us, avoiding doing wrong things, oneself, and getting bogged down in resentment of what others do to us. It does not mean that criminal behaviour should not be punished accordingly and it does not excuse one from paying overdue taxes and debts. A prayer of "asking Jesus into my life" is not a quick fix that will bring an instant change, like an e-book loading onto a reader. Paying up when the bill arrives might help more.

Many of our practices and beliefs in the Christian church are tied to a time when there was quite a high infant mortality. It wasn't necessarily from a toddler older sibling murdering the fragile new baby. There were so many plagues and diseases one was lucky to survive as far as toddlerhood. Therefore babies were christened as soon as possible, so that whether they lived a short life or a long life they had at least been admitted to God's Church and hopefully God's care.

Yesterday the Duke and Duchess arrived in Sydney with their beautiful baby son, whose public outing in New Zealand entranced everyone before their arrival. Prince George was confident, healthy, well-grown and obviously well-cared for, despite his nanny not having gone on duty before last February. But over in Pakistan, a baby, still too young to stand, let alone walk and not much older than Prince George, was accused of murdering someone. Undoubtedly the baby was less well supervised and cared for than Prince George. So, clearly the people who would consider a baby not really old enough to stand or walk must believe in original sin, whether or not they believe in the Bible or Jesus, to make such a ridiculous criminal charge against this poor child.

Your posts and the whole topic reminds me inescapably of Andrew Barton Patterson's ballad, A bush christening. This rather funny poem starts something like this:

On the Outer Barcoo, where churches are few,
And men of religion are scanty,
On a path seldom crossed, except by folk that are lost,
One Michael Magee had a shanty.

Now this Mike was the dad of a 10 year old lad,
Plump, healthy and stoutly conditioned
He was strong as the best, but poor Mike had no rest,
For the youngster had never been christened.

And his wife used to cry, "If the darling should die
St Peter would not recognise him".
But by luck he survived, till a preacher arrived,
Who agreed straitaway to baptise him.

The boy overhears their plans, and thinks he is about to be branded like the livestock on their farm, so he decides to go bush. The "praist" does eventually catch him and so the poem ends this way:

Now McGinnis Magee has been made a JP
And one thing he hates more than sin is,
To be asked by the folk who know of the joke,
How he came to be called McGinnis.

Doubtlessly poor old McGinnis Magee might consider it sinful to drink McGinnis' whiskey. ;)
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Apr 16, 2014 8:22 pm

A local flood? Hogwash. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths many Christians go to not read the early books of the Bible (especially Genesis) as they're plainly written (historical narratives illustrating theological truths). Even if you remove all of the references to the flood being global, there's still that pesky rainbow where God tells Noah and his family he'll never said another flood like it. A local flood in Noah's time would make God a lair, as we've had countless local floods throughout history, some of them very big.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Apr 16, 2014 10:16 pm

@ W4J: I've no doubt there have been some ginormous floods, even world-wide floods. We probably didn't get the atmosphere we have without at least several worldwide floods. Movement of the continents has undoubtedly caused flood conditions. Enormous volcanic eruptions, for example, Mt Toba or Krakatoa, have also played parts in separating land masses, such as Sumatra & Java. Earthquake conditions such as those recorded in the story of Jason and the Argonauts, have accounted for the Dardanelles which link the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, or the Mediterranean Sea, itself, and the Straits of Gibraltar. And let us not forget the sorts of devastating tsunamis like we saw on Boxing Day 2004, or the Fukushima disaster of 2011.

It is not only the Genesis story which attests to such floods. There were other accounts which were found in Babylonian, Assyrian and Sumerian literature, all different. There is a Roman flood story in Ovid's Metamorphoses. And in other worldwide traditions, even the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, who went as far as the Indus river system, now in Pakistan, could not possibly have known about. Nobody is doubting there was a real flood, at this stage, only the amount of knowledge of what was happening on the other side of the world.

Two nights ago we were watching an account of a devastating USA flood in 1993. Some people on this site might know about this flood. It was supposed to be a 500 year event, and the whole of the Mississippi river system seems to have been involved, despite dams and other flood measures. Another flood, almost as bad, happened a mere 15 years later. I'd be worried about the amount of snow continuing to fall in USA, because surely they don't need any more such devastating floods, when all the snow melts. The Amazon, a possibly bigger river system than the Mississippi, might flood routinely, in somewhat more tropical conditions, but we know considerably less about it.

The Mississippi is not the only dangerous and far-reaching river system. A similar devastating flood happened in Pakistan a few years ago. The Vistula, Oder and Rhine have been known to flood, as does the Danube. The Murray, Murrumbidgee and Darling River systems drain much of Southern Queensland & New South Wales, right down to Victoria and South Australia, and when we get enough water cause enough flooding to justify 19th century early beliefs of an inland sea. And there is strong evidence in Ireland, of all places, that about 2500 BC, there were disastrous wet conditions which wiped out some sorts of vegetation and animals, whilst helping the creation of the turf and bogs which to this day keeps the Irish in fuel.

However, nobody in the Bible ever said directly they knew anything about Australia at all, let alone the Americas and how they were affected with floods in the time of Noah. The flood traditions of Western Civilization, including the floods Genesis refers to, for the most part, relate only what happened in the known vicinity of the protagonists, in this case Noah. Much of the events related in the Biblical flood were within the orbit of the Mediterranean world, including Rome, Tarshish (Spain or Britain?), of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Egypt. The Tigris and Euphrates river system, from Syria and Eastern Turkey, right down to the Persian Gulf, is also a flood plain prone to dangerously devastating floods, and yes, I've no doubt that such a flood happened.

Meanwhile, have you yet seen the new movie, Noah, and what do you think about it from a religious point of view? I have yet to see it for myself.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Apr 16, 2014 11:03 pm

Yes, there have been many floods around the world, but by world-wide flood, I mean the one described in early Genesis as wiping out everything that breathed (save Noah, his family and the animals aboard the Ark). While not all flood stories can be attested to as recording the Great Flood, the fact that we have so many flood stories from all over the world, attests to the Bible being true. If we take the Genesis account to be true, then Noah's sons and their wives has sons and daughters. They would've passed down their history to their children and their children would pass them onto their children and so on. Over time, the stories would become exaggerated and lose details and other details native to the current culture at the time would be added to seemingly give more relevance their ancient stories.

Yes, the Bible only records what happens in the Mediterranean area, but to be fair, Shem and his descendants would've lost track of Japheth especially (except for the Greeks etc. in the NT) and most of Ham's descendants (save their encounters with the Egyptians and Babylonians etc) after the world-wide dispersal at the Tower of Babel, in the area of Shinar. The fact that many of those cultures have similar (but corrupted) versions of Creation, the Fall, the Great Flood, and a Great Tower, attests to Genesis as history and all cultures springing from the cradle of civilization.

My thoughts on Noah? Do you want the short review or the long one? :)

NOAH: A short review

The Noah movie is deeply philosophical, theological and psychological. It’s structured as an aggressive debate on the nature of God, mankind, sin, suffering, justice, mercy and redemption, in the tradition of rabbinic arguments and the great thinkers of the Christian Church throughout its tumultuous history. Much of this formidable debate plays out as a small (but heated) family drama between Noah and his kin.

The movie borrows from a number of ancient source materials, namely the Old Testament Bible, the interesting but uninspired Book of Enoch and the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Noah proves to be Darren Aronofsky’s most mainstream movie to date (that said I’ve only seen three others of his) but it’s probably still the most unorthodox interpretation of Noah and the Great Flood you’re ever likely to witness.

A really good (if highly speculative) take on the book of Genesis, chapters 6-9. You'll be thinking about the movie long after you've left the cinema.

Check out my detailed review in the status below to find out more.

8/10
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Apr 16, 2014 11:06 pm

NOAH: A rather long review

Great movie! Going into it, I knew this version would be different from the historical account found in the Bible, in the book of Genesis, Chapters 6-9. The movie is, in parts, both true to the Bible and rather speculative. The story borrows from Noah's story in the Old Testament but also other sections in the Bible, including the earlier chapters of Genesis (the creation, the fall, Cain and Abel, the early genealogies). There's some Jewish lore (the Book of Enoch), some Jewish mythology and Mesopotamian mythology and of course, director Darren Aronofsky's own ideas.

I've seen some of Aronofsky's other works - Pi (good), The Fountain (clever but dull) and Black Swan (good), so I had some idea of what to expect. He is clearly passionate about the story he's telling and he's not afraid to take it in unorthodox directions.

I found the storytelling to be layered and challenging and the major characters to be both psychologically and philosophically rich, save for Noah's son, Japtheth. Much of the acting was well done, especially Russell Crowe playing Noah.

Noah's story is fascinating. It's terribly dark and disturbing and the movie is sombre in tone. Noah has many doubts and his dreams eventually drive him mad. He later develops a form of cabin fever aboard the Ark. That said, his story extrapolates on what may have happened eg. Noah's doubting his role in God's plan, family struggles, withstanding the culture of sin surrounding them, the fear and horror of experiencing the Flood - hearing all those outside the Ark dying, the doubts in creating an Ark and then trusting that God was watching over them, surivour's guilt and so on. This Noah's a far cry from the biblical man but he's certainly shown to be fallible. That and his eventual psychosis is intriguing to watch.

The visuals were often compelling but not distracting. They were only there to further the story (here's looking at you Michael Bay!) I was surprised at how little of the actual Flood was shown. It's not a disaster movie in the tradition of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmirech (you don't really see the continent break apart and the volcanoes erupt. You don't even see the waters rise or recede or much of the violence done to the land, the people and the animals. Much is left to the imagination.

Many say Aronofsky is an atheist. After watching seeing several of his movies and now Noah, I have to strongly disagree. Seems to me, he's either a lapsed Jew or one who's struggling to hold onto his faith. He questions so much and uses all of his characters, to different degrees, to share a little of his story, his fascination with Noah and his own struggle with his Creator God. The result is raw and ugly and disturbing. It's also honest and strangely encouraging. No saccharine religiosity here.

I have a few objections given the speculative nature of the movie. Some of them are major and some minor. My major objections are that the fallen angels are in league with Noah and his family and help them build the Ark (hello, these were Satan's minions). The CGI fallen angels as rock giants looked a little silly and out of place. I wonder why they changed the character design from the graphic novel (which I haven't read - yet). At one point, Noah tells the creation story to his family, but it's laced with evolutionary imagery (which admittedly is artfully done and highly impressive but also contrary to what the Bible teaches. Noah fighting off Tubal-Cain's men as the great waters of the deep shoot up into the sky. That was rather silly. Perhaps Noah's madness was taken too far. The movie needed more humour and at times, a sense of joy.

Minor objections: The stowaway on the Ark wasn't bad, so much as unnecessary. The writers could've mined Genesis 6:1-8 for more material; that was a missed opportunity. The meat = sinful, environment = good, people = bad message was a little preachy, but not nearly as bad as I feared. Also, there not being any dinosaurs aboard the Ark and no scenes where Noah's family tended to the animals. Once they're aboard, we see very little of the animals, because they've been drugged into hibernation (how convenient for the CGI artists!) Finally, I would've liked to have seen more of a civilization pre-Flood.

Judgment, sin, suffering, redemption - these themes are all given a fair hearing. Mankind is certainly not let off the hook for their sins and God isn't portrayed as the enemy (very good).

All in all, Noah was a really good movie. The story is controversial but artfully considered. Just don't go to see it expecting Noah's story to be wholly true to the Bible, because it most certainly isn't.

Warning: Mature audiences and older - contains: Moderate violence, adult themes and disturbing imagery.

8/10
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby stargazer » Apr 17, 2014 4:21 pm

This popular discussion has passed 100 pages so it's time to close it and begin the 7th thread in this topic. Please continue the discussion here. Thanks!
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