Saturday, August 10, 2013

Misunderstanding the past: the meaning of 'sin'


From the Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen:

I stumbled into a BBC programme called Secret History in which Lucy Worsley was taking us around the 17th century William Cavendish’s castle at Bolsover. In one room there were walls and ceiling pictures on Christian themes: “..the little angels crying because Christ had just been crucified.” In the next room there were renaissance depictions of classical scenes: “..the gods of Olympus enjoying an orgy.”

Well, sort of. There was no attempt to explain how the 'little angels' – renaissance cherubs – had developed out of the terrifying images which were their origin: the terrible cherubim pillars of the Canaanite bull cult off the Old Testament, eventually theocratised into archangels by late Judaism. And in the “classical” pictures nothing was said to disabuse us of the misconception that the Olympian orgy was anything other than a 21st-century booze-up with added naughtiness.

An historian might have offered the information that the gods depicted were originally personifications of natural forces – including human natural forces – and so their merriment was a representation of something like a pagan creation myth. For good measure we were told that King Charles I, being 'cerebral' didn’t like this scene and in any case his visit to Bolsover happened at a time when 'Puritanism was becoming powerful at Court'. But Charles wasn’t a Puritan: they were actually his opponents. And he preferred the room with the biblical representations because he was a devout and informed Christian. He, unlike our guide, knew what they meant.

Secret History was history as entertainment; history as upmarket tourism, cultural voyeurism and interior décor. There is a lot of it about and it’s only one step up from all those Hollywood epics in which Pharaoh’s daughter or Salome share the same tastes as contemporary American teenage girls in whose accents they speak. It belongs to that brand of pretentious ignorance and cultural snobbery which regards telly visits to archaeological digs and posh houses as the means whereby one can imbibe an education effortlessly. Or at least a cultural lacquer. And the reason I mention it, apart from a brute desire to exorcise my irritation with the culture-as-fashion-icon gang, is to relate it to historical study in general and to the study of scriptural texts and ancient Christian dogmas in particular.

We moderns make the mistake of thinking that our predecessors were preoccupied with the same things which engage us; that they faced similar problems, asked similar questions and, if they were really clever and 'ahead of their time', came up with answers remarkably like ours. This mistake is perpetrated even in the most venerated academic traditions such as philosophy and the history of ideas. It works like this: someone says that Plato was an idealist. And, before you can say 'perfect world of absolute forms', someone else has immediately introduced those other philosophers Kant, Berkeley and F.H. Bradley as similar idealists who were therefore preoccupied with the same issues as those of Plato. As if Plato and Berkeley might walk into the pub and each immediately know what the other was talking about. Not so.

In order to understand the past it is necessary not simply to ogle it as if one were wandering in smart casuals with Lucy at Bolsover. We have to try to get inside the heads of our forebears and predecessors and ask what the answers might be which made them ask the particular questions they did ask. Then we must try to ask those questions again for ourselves. History consists in asking this: “What must the truth have been and be if it appeared like that to people who thought, spoke and wrote as they did?” Not, “What do we 21st century guys make of it?”

When we do this, we are in for more than a few surprises. It’s worth the effort for we might even emerge with the hint of an education. It throws a completely different light on Our Lord’s parable of the sheep and the goats, for example, when you discover that the local sheep around in the Galilee of that time were pretty well indistinguishable from the goats. And next time we hear the word 'sin', we shouldn’t think it just means sex or having a few too many – let alone one of our more exotic-bureaucratic sins of contemporary political-correctness such as 'racism' or 'homophobia'. If we wish truly to discover what the Christian faith has to say about sin and its possible cure, we have to ask ourselves what the biblical writers and the Fathers made of it. Let us take this very example.

For New Testament writers beginning with St Paul, and then for theologians such as Origen and Augustine, 'sin' meant the deeply flawed character of human existence – that which poisons our will and renders impotent all our attempts at virtue. It did not mean 'You’ve been naughty – must do better'. Because sin is what guarantees that you can’t do better. Still less does sin mean the particular transgression of an item in the moral or social code. Sin for Paul and Augustine was nothing other than the definition of our human condition as frail children of dust and feeble as frail. Sin is the existential plague of our total ruination and for which only the sacrifice of Christ is the cure. That was what Augustine’s quarrel with Pelagius was all about.

This has profound consequences. For once you begin to see sin like this, the drama of salvation becomes more vivid. For sin was and is the universal curse. God, by contrast, is the utterly blessed. So when the apostle says that Christ was made sin for us to save us from sin, he is speaking the unutterable, terrible violence which proclaims Calvary as the place where the Blessed One was made cursed. There on the Cross is the Creator of all life being tortured to death by his creation. Moreover, the scriptural writers believed that by sin death entered the world and the gospel story tells us that even God himself in Christ was subject to this death.

Now imagine: if this mere beginning of a genuine search for understanding the minds of our predecessors can so quickly blaze forth the deep tragic love affair between God and man which is our history, condition, tragedy and final destiny, just think what a consistent application of our intelligence over a lifetime might reveal.

It sure beats history as posh shopping, Lucy.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is an author and former rector of St Michael's, Cornhill in the City of London.

205 Comments:

Blogger DanJ0 said...

It makes me wonder why so many Christians focus on the 'sins' of non-Christians, individually or as a society, if apartness from their god is the fundamental issue. Surely Matthew 5:14 would be a much better approach to others, along with making the religion available to those adults outside who are interested in it?

10 August 2013 11:05  
Blogger Nick said...

Dr Mullen

It's refreshing to hear someone talk about the true nature of sin. I have often thought that sin goes well beyond the obvious worldly notion. I think it is the blindness to that deeper notion that causes people to say they don't need God. The fact that someone doesn't commit murder or adultery does not make them clean. Sin is anything about our behaviour, our attitude, or the inclination of our heart that falls short of what God expects from us. Thus we are all sinners.

Atheists have their own notion of "sin", which may be based on certain obvious criminal acts and also based on current thought-fashions, which come and go. When man sets himself up as his own judge, then the result is a selective blindness about what is acceptable or not. The media obviously falls into this category. To broadcast anything else would be ratings-suicide. So always expect the dumbed-down version of sin from them.

10 August 2013 11:05  
Blogger Belsay Bugle said...

Exactly!

Beats every other religion hands down!

Wasn't Pelagius that fellow who thought we could make ourselves good by our own efforts, just like most protestant and dissenting sects?

10 August 2013 11:12  
Blogger Albert said...

Very good post.

We moderns make the mistake of thinking that our predecessors were preoccupied with the same things which engage us; that they faced similar problems, asked similar questions and, if they were really clever and 'ahead of their time', came up with answers remarkably like ours.

Precisely. Historians tend (with some excellent exceptions) to be pretty rubbish at pre-secular history, because they don't see the significance of religion in those eras (and when they cannot avoids its significance, like in the Reformation era, they misunderstand it). As a result, they can be more misleading than enlightening.

This isn't a failing of the BBC particularly. It is a failing of academia generally, which has allowed itself to become the propaganda wing of secular liberalism.

10 August 2013 11:12  
Blogger Martin said...

Clearly I haven't said it clearly enough. ;-)

What the Reformation was about was the inability of mankind to contribute in any way to their salvation. Salvation is all of God and none of the sinner.

We cannot add to our salvation nor can we take away from our salvation, God saves and once He has saved we are saved, full stop.

That many who claim to be Christians have moved from that position does not say that such is not the historical faith of the Reformation. It merely places questions over their belief.

10 August 2013 11:52  
Blogger David B said...

Let be get this straight.

Sin does not refer to particular actions, thoughts and deeds, but refers to some sort of metaphysical position which is claimed to be either (but which?) the result of a historical Eve eating a historical fruit at the persuasion of a historical talking snake, or a metaphysical position for which the garden of Eden tale is some sort of allegory?

If not, what?

If so, then can the learned Dr Mullen please tell me, in light of texts like -

Gen 4 7 "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door"

Gen 18 20 "And the LORD said , Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous "

Gen 50 17 "So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. "

And load more OT examples, then

Matt 18 21 "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? "

John 8 11 "She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. "

And any number of other biblical quotes in which it appears by any reasonable reading that sin was to do with thought or action, was it the translators of the KJV who were so out of touch with Dr Mullen's version of sin as to render the KJV useless as an account of anything, was it the texts from which the KJV was translated which were similarly flawed, or perhaps it was Paul, Origen, Augustine etc who were not using the word sin as the Bible clearly does use it many times?

Or has Dr Mullen got it wrong?

Or what? Because something, as Spock might say, does not compute here.

David

10 August 2013 11:54  
Blogger David B said...

@ DanJO 11.05

Matt 5 14 would certainly be better PR than the equally biblical Luke 14 26

David

10 August 2013 11:57  
Blogger Albert said...

David B,

Sin is both an action and a state:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

10 August 2013 12:03  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10 August 2013 12:05  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

OIG,

This thread is *not* going down that route. Do, please, consider getting your own blog upon which you may dispute your won obsessions to your heart's content.

10 August 2013 12:16  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Noted, Eminence. But with your kind permission, would like the opening to stand...

"This simple man rarely reads anything about the effect of sin on the individual. Analysis always sides with the annoying of God by it. Well, is sinful activity nothing more than harmful activity to humanity or the individual ? Are we not being protected from that by the almighty ?"


10 August 2013 12:28  
Blogger Peter D said...

DaNj0
Quoting snippets of Scripture to serve purposes other than Truth is a tactic familiar to those familiar with the Bible.

You routinely trot out Matthew 5:14 and Mark 12:31 - and other passages - as a means of silencing Christians and pushing them out of the public square. You would like to see the pollution" and "child abuse" of Christianity restricted to private pockets of Amish-type settlements. Visit churches on Sunday, do our thing and leave our faith there the rest of the week.

Well, it doesn't quite work like that.

You say:
" Surely Matthew 5:14 would be a much better approach to others, along with making the religion available to those adults outside who are interested in it?"

That's not what the Gospel calls us to do. Here's my response to you on another thread concerning Mark 12:30 and Mark 12:31, which you wanted to separate:

Mark 12:30
"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment."

Mark 12:31
"And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these."

The two great commands are integrated and mutually dependent. Love of neighbour flows from love of God and love of neighbour is love of God.

It is love of one's neighbour to share with them knowledge of God, His Divine will for us and His answer to the human condition.

God is not an atheist-liberal who approves of both the tares and the wheat! Love of God and neighbour is not some wishy-washy motion of tolerance of all things in the name of avoiding causing offence.

Indeed, affirming the idea that a God who loves us all unconditionally, and who offers Christ as the answer to sin, whilst avoiding the fact that He will ultimately Judge us on our response to Christ, would be the very opposite of love.

10 August 2013 12:33  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

The historians I know are hugely interested in the banal things of the time, such as private letters, because they tend to make personal testimony. Things like high art are things for public consumption; a step or more away from typical thought if you like.

I sometimes wonder the someone from the Middle Ages in a relatively lowly position made of the Big Questions as they were almost certainly illterate, untravelled, living close to subsistence, and dependent on very few sources of information.

10 August 2013 12:42  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "Here's my response to you on another thread concerning Mark 12:30 and Mark 12:31, which you wanted to separate"

Hardly. I made much the same comment, saying "When one look at Mark 12:28-34 [...]", on the Exporting gay marriage - the Gospel of St Dave thread.

10 August 2013 12:52  
Blogger Peter D said...

Christian art spread the Gospel message in a powerful format that the "illterate, (sic) untravelled, (sic) living close to subsistence, and dependent on very few sources of information" could and did access.

Then there were the priests and monks who taught their communities about God and demonstrated the Gospel through their active ministries - hospitals, offering food and shelter and offering schooling.

(Of course the death and the blind would be at something of a disadvantage.)

10 August 2013 12:55  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

But anyway. I sometimes wonder whether the electric light bulb is partly to blame for our modern disengagement with the Big Questions. I've been to places where you carry everything you need and the night brings proper darkness other than for starlight and moonlight. It does tend to send you a big, well, primal in your thoughts.

10 August 2013 12:58  
Blogger Peter D said...

i.e. is ^deaf^ and not death .... interesting slip.

10 August 2013 12:58  
Blogger Gladiatrix said...

I note that Reverend Mullen doesn't actually appear to have made his comments on her programme to Lucy Worsley herself. A rather strange omission given that she can be contacted either via her own website or at her email address as Curator of the Royal Palaces.

10 August 2013 13:03  
Blogger David B said...

Hi Albert

I don't really understand why so much attention is paid to Paul.

But - in some circles at least - a lot of attention is paid to him.

That quote you posted struck me as the words of a man deeply unhappy about his appetites, someone who wishes to be all spirit and no body.

Someone who, in short, is not life affirming. Not someone who wishes to explore - with due regard for not being horrible to one's fellows - the variety of experience which make up, in the words of Arthur Marshall, life's rich pageant.

Someone who would have welcomed the end of the world, someone who expected it imminently, and within the lifetimes of his contemporaries, someone who not only had a jaundiced view of life, but someone who, like Harold Camping and Charles Taze Russell, and many other people of deep faith of the same ilk, was profoundly and clearly wrong.

David

10 August 2013 13:04  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

David B,

I will admit that I am not quite sure what your objection is based upon or what it is you wish to argue with the verses you cite.

But then when I read those verses I head the echoing lines that follow them, of Jesus saying to Peter, not seven times but seventy seven times and then the parable of the unmerciful servant, which teaches us not only to expect the sinful nature of those we forgive, but also the response we should give, knowing that we are forgiven from the same by God.

Or perhaps the knowledge that the woman caught in adultery is a prolific sinner, released from her sin which has bound her and tainted her both spiritually and socially, even as Christ's actions in front of the mob note their own wilful blindness to their state of sin.
Or to read the remainder of your first verse, that not only does sin lie at the door but 'its desire is for you and you must rule over it'.

Or to realise that the verse about Joseph comes from after his father's death when his brothers feared his forgiveness would be retracted, and that they are asking Joseph to remember both Jacob's wishes and that they are servants of the same Lord of Mercy. Try reading two verses later.

Actually, I really am lost as to what these verses are supposed to mean. Can you explain why to you they spoke of a great contradiction

10 August 2013 13:08  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

With regards to Paul, perhaps you would be kind enough to give one further small clarification: do you object to Paul being cited because you think his writing is irrelevant to determining what Christianity's position on sin is?

"That quote you posted struck me as the words of a man deeply unhappy about his appetites, someone who wishes to be all spirit and no body."

It might be interesting to consider this view in light of Paul's teaching that we would not be disembodied spirits, but renewed flesh, and that discipleship is about conforming the flesh to serve not its own fallen desires, but to the desires of the spirit which has been placed within us by God. It's about the restoration of flesh, not its abnegation - the view you cite is actually a heretical one which both Paul and the Church were at pains to correct.

10 August 2013 13:24  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David B @ 13:04

You raise several questions about Paul. Let's start with his wish to be all spirit (also addressed, I see, by AiB).

If Paul was the gnostic you suggest, what do you make of his view of the resurrection body in 'I Corinthians 15: 35-54'?

Come back to me about that one, and then we can move onto the other points you have raised.

10 August 2013 13:44  
Blogger Albert said...

Hello David B,

I don't really understand why so much attention is paid to Paul. But - in some circles at least - a lot of attention is paid to him.

There probably is an over-emphasis on Paul (in the sense that other important biblical writers are somewhat side-lined) as a result of Protestantism, which is built upon a very particular view of Paul (not a view of Paul that Paul would accept, I think).

That quote you posted struck me as the words of a man deeply unhappy about his appetites, someone who wishes to be all spirit and no body.

A couple of things about that quote. Firstly, when scripture speaks of spirit and flesh it does not normally mean it in a Platonic sense. This is not the opposition of the physical and the non-physical, but of human nature properly ordered or disordered. Being disordered is not a joyful state, which is why, in order to be disordered, modernity first needs to undermine the whole notion of nature and order. But when humanity is set free from disorder, then it is joyful - what could be more life affirming than to be set free from a disordered and diminished kind of life for the fullness of life, in keeping with one's true nature?

Secondly, what Paul meant is perhaps less clear than it appears. He is almost certainly not describing himself at the time of writing. The "I" is referring to Adam - to Adam who personifies humanity sunk in sin. But Paul is not sunk in sin, but, as he writes a little earlier:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness...But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And Paul writes, directly after the passage I cited:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.

So what Paul writes before and after our passage shows he is no longer that man, he has been set free.
You write:

Someone who, in short, is not life affirming. Not someone who wishes to explore - with due regard for not being horrible to one's fellows - the variety of experience which make up, in the words of Arthur Marshall, life's rich pageant.

But I think that what Paul is proposing is profoundly life-affirming. Of course, he does not wish to explore that vast array of human experience we call sin - but who in their right mind would?

Someone who would have welcomed the end of the world, someone who expected it imminently, and within the lifetimes of his contemporaries, someone who not only had a jaundiced view of life

This needs careful thought. Paul is affirming real life, not the half-life of sin which leads only to death. As for the end of the world, this is about the world being brought to a close as we know it:

because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Now, looking at the world around us with all its problems, who would think Paul's hope is a bad one or a lacking in life-affirmation?

10 August 2013 13:56  
Blogger Peter D said...

David B

Rev Mullen writes:
" ... 'sin' meant the deeply flawed character of human existence – that which poisons our will and renders impotent all our attempts at virtue ...

"Sin for Paul and Augustine was nothing other than the definition of our human condition as frail children of dust and feeble as frail. Sin is the existential plague of our total ruination and for which only the sacrifice of Christ is the cure."


What an excellent summary and gleaned from the totality of Scripture - Old and New Testament - and not singular verses isolated from others.

Albert and Belfast have both demonstrated this in their responses to you.

10 August 2013 14:21  
Blogger John Thomas said...

What really really GETS me is when they (usually, the BBC) run "historical" programmes which attempt to read back modern values and ideas into the society and minds of our forbears (thus, everybody was really a materialist at heart, and most were closet gays, but for the wicked Church), yes, they were all really like us ...

10 August 2013 15:18  
Blogger LEN said...

Interesting that 'sin' is almost always what the other fellow is doing not what we ourselves are doing?.

The individual sins that we commit are not the whole picture!. It is what drives us , what compels us to sin that is the problem.
If we keep plucking the bad fruit from a tree it merely produces more bad fruit.
What we need therefore is to cut down the tree that is producing the bad fruit.
And if you can grasp that essential fact you are on the pathway to salvation.
'A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.'(Matthew 17;18)

What many do is to keep pruning the bad tree hoping it will produce good fruit.God has a far more radical solution he cuts down the bad tree and grafts you onto the good tree(Christ)IF we let Him!.

10 August 2013 15:31  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Albert,

Who are the "exceptional" historians to whom you refer?

10 August 2013 16:05  
Blogger Albert said...

Corrigan,

Historians whom you suspect would be at home in a theology department, like Duffy. Similarly, some of the Medievalists Regine Pernoud. In effect, history, prior to 1789 (or perhaps earlier) cannot really be done by people who are not also Church historians.

10 August 2013 16:30  
Blogger Peter D said...

Len

Agreed. The differences between us are God's means and not the end.

Consider the words of Jesus to His Apostles in John 15 after the Last Supper.

10 August 2013 16:31  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

I like Duffy - very readable histories, and seems to be a genuinely nice bloke. His interventions in some of the CofE conferences have been particularly enjoyable to watch - he's no stranger to a bit of iconoclasm himself when it comes to dearly-held historiographies. But I'd contest some of the easier conclusions he draws: where he has a choice between motives, and one of them is orthodox belief, nuance tends to decline somewhat.

Although I think Duffy edges ahead of him, there's still something in Diarmuid MacCulloch's criticism that he veers from being a Catholic Historian into writing Catholic History. (Pot, kettle, and black spring to mind - but that doesn't mean there isn't an element of truth in it).

A few anecdotes to supplement Albert's point: I have had several conversations with early-career historians who have let slip that they haven't actually, you know, read the Bible. Not entirely their fault necessarily - though it does suggest a certain lack in the postgraduate courses that brought them there - but as two of them were doing work related to spiritual movements, I did cringe a little. The crowning event, though, was at an International Conference where the phraseology of a particular document came into discussion with the speaker and a surprisingly high proportion of the room apparently unaware that the language was straight out of the Vulgate. Bit of a whoopsie moment.

10 August 2013 18:53  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

Yes, I think some historians would be better off doing something else. If you don't have a religious imagination and at least a working knowledge of Christianity, you just can't do European history of certain eras. If you do, you make yourself a laughing stock, particularly in Theology departments. you end up not asking the important questions, and the categories to the questions that you do ask would not be shared often by the people you claim to be revealing.

As for Duffy and MacCulloch's criticism, it struck me as professional jealousy. Duffy and his colleagues have changed the face of Reformation studies, particularly in England. What has MacCulloch done? Some excellent books, not least on the Reformation and our own host, but I don't see that he has changed our view at all (except to bring to light some of the odder opinions of the mainstream Reformers). And of course, you get all those irritating chapters on sexuality, leading to the usual comparisons between homosexuality and slavery, comparisons which suggest a wider set of ethical commitments than are really justified in a book on the Reformation. Perhaps MacCulloch moves from being a homosexual historian into writing homosexual history. Certainly, his critiques of Catholicism seem to be more motivated his sexuality than by historical fairness, sometimes. His opinions on women apostles are frankly embarrassing given that they come from someone who really ought to familiar with the KJV. Perhaps one should describe him as a liberal historian, with some of the history being very liberal indeed!

There's a nice anecdote in one of Duffy's books on this charge that he is writing Catholic history. The Reformation historian AG Dickens was unable to accept that more careful scholarship than his own was unravelling his view of the Reformation as something the English were crying out for. On hearing that one of the revisionist historians, Christopher Haigh, was not in fact a Catholic, Dickens replied "then why does he say such things?" Duffy points out that this "confessional history" accusation is only ever pointed in one direction - at Catholic (and often non Catholic historians) who have much richer evidence at their disposal than Protestant historians ever did.

10 August 2013 20:06  
Blogger Martin said...

Peter

Actually, no, 'Christian' art did not spread the gospel. The gospel is spread by preaching:

“"The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to [those who are] bound;” (Isaiah 61:1 NKJV)

That is how the good news is spread, not with pretty pictures or fine statues, or even with awe inspiring liturgy and music.

10 August 2013 20:22  
Blogger Albert said...

Martin,

Actually, no, 'Christian' art did not spread the gospel.

Quite a claim. Do you mean it a priori or a posteriori?

10 August 2013 20:33  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

I had more in mind "Protestant History" but yes, as I said, pot and kettle.

It's not Duffy's revisionism which I'm criticising, since it has rehabilitated much of culture (religious and otherwise) of the Middle Ages that previously seemed to invariably be framed with perjorative and patronising cautions. It's more to note that having exploded a comfortable Protestant-cum-Modern consensus, he is a little too quick to instantiate orthodoxy as an explanation to replace it.

My own view, is that when you look at the practice on the ground, you may not find a kind of resurgent protesting movement, but on the other hand, nor do you by any means universally find the reverse, that everyone is comfortably orthodox in the post-Reformation Catholic sense which Duffy often advocates for. Everyone's claiming to be true to the Church, but what that means substansively is open to variation. How do you classify something that, 100 years later, would seem closer to Protestantism, but in its own context appeared to sit comfortably enough within the Catholic Church?

MacCulloch (and others; Watson, Hudson etc.) favoured "proto-Protestantism" doesn't seem to me to be entirely convincing. I mean, I can see much in, say, the Duns Scotus lineage and the Conciliarists that accords with many of the ecclesiological positions found within Protestantism - but can any of them be described as "protesting" in their own context? I'm not sure that they can. Nor though, could they be comfortably put in as uncritically orthodox - it's precisely because on many issues orthodoxy was open to contestation that we have this difficulty. For Protestant historiography, clear distinctions make it easier to supplement the narrative of a "clean break with Rome" (a narrative which evolves into Whig historiography) - but Duffy too wants something of a "clean break", just as a means of demonstrating his narrative of violent disruption to a widely-accepted status quo.

That's why, excellent though his work is, I'm not wholly sure that Duffy has entirely moved the historiography on as far as he is often credited as doing. Perhaps it's my Anglican credentials, but I tend to see more in the way of continuity in practice - even though the divisions emerge as being stark, and for centuries, irreconcilable - precisely because the medieval Church was not the monolithic entity it is often caricatured as.

10 August 2013 20:39  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

The Gospel was also spread via music and singing in the early Church everything was sung.
Watching David Starkey on BBC2 “Music and Monarchy”
Really good series.

There are Biblical stories in the stained glass windows of Churches and Cathedrals that people learned from Martin.

10 August 2013 20:43  
Blogger Martin said...

Albert

It seems to me that much art claimed to be Christian isn't.

10 August 2013 20:49  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Albert, Marie:

It's a theological argument that roots faith in God's actions within a person as the ultimate, and if necessary, only reason for its appearance.

Martin perhaps extends this logically to make it mutually exclusive with the psychological effect of art (i.e. a faith taken in any way from art is not really faith) - which is a position I wouldn't share if he did - but the root is, I believe, uncontroversial for most Christian denominations.

10 August 2013 20:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

MacCulloch (and others; Watson, Hudson etc.) favoured "proto-Protestantism" doesn't seem to me to be entirely convincing

It seems to me to be entirely unconvincing. In the end, what Medieval Christians shared was a sense of tradition and teaching through the Church. If they sometimes held positions that would later be shown to be incompatible with the Catholic faith, then that is always the case (development of doctrine). What they would have agreed upon (and disagreed with the Reformation) was that the Church would, by tradition be able to clarify such matters.

I can see much in, say, the Duns Scotus lineage and the Conciliarists that accords with many of the ecclesiological positions found within Protestantism - but can any of them be described as "protesting" in their own context?

But then Conciliarism has truth in it too - it's just that we tend to call it collegiality these days. It's worth noting that Scotus is now a Blessed, which must say something.

Perhaps it's my Anglican credentials, but I tend to see more in the way of continuity in practice - even though the divisions emerge as being stark, and for centuries, irreconcilable - precisely because the medieval Church was not the monolithic entity it is often caricatured as.

One of Duffy's strengths is his attention to details at the parish level. At that level, the English Reformation is decidedly discontinuous (witness The Voices of Morebath - as it is at the episcopal level, and at the level of general governance. At every level, the history of the Reformation looks to me to be a secularisation. This is particularly, painfully clear at the local level. Of course, secularisation was not how it was seen at the time, as there was no clear view of secularisation as we would understand it. Secularisation was the effect. Perhaps if the Reformers could have seen where they were going, things might have been different.

10 August 2013 20:55  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

Martin perhaps extends this logically to make it mutually exclusive with the psychological effect of art (i.e. a faith taken in any way from art is not really faith) - which is a position I wouldn't share if he did - but the root is, I believe, uncontroversial for most Christian denominations.

This is obscure to me. When you speak of the root, do you mean a faith taken in any way from art is not really faith is a root that is uncontroversial for most Christian denominations?

10 August 2013 20:58  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

I agree Albert that the detail at the parish end is what makes Duffy's stuff brilliant.

But at the same time, it's working on similar material myself that makes me aware of his treatment of that material. There are plenty of occasions where he is for my tastes too uncritical in assuming that because, say, a parishioner has invested in a statue of Mary that he must have done so exclusively as an act of pietic devotion. He is quite explicit in places in rejecting "secular" explanations for people's engagement in Church culture. Partly, I think, because he is often limiting himself to ecclesiastical documents. Voices of Morebath is a good example - relying overwhelmingly on the parish priest's account. Sometimes, though, it's worth correlating those accounts with secular documents - where it sometimes transpires that a merchant who has beneficed a parish was in fact embarking on something of a political drive. That's a fairly obvious example, though: I'm really interested at how the same kinds of ideas about "pious" activity can be found, re-expressed, in secular government for entirely secular ends. What's interesting about that, is that what gets glorified, often explicitly, in such documents, is the emerging ideas of civic morality. Very often too, it is not the merchants who are indebted to the Church but vice versa: by the late medieval period you're getting an awful lot of secular clergy who are not only being paid for out of public funds, but directly appointed, and even sacked, by civic officials - especially if they end up on the wrong side of a locally-contentious issue.

Against all that, Duffy tends to assert the moral authority claimed by the Church as actual authority. I think, precisely for the same kind of reasons that you articulate at the end of your posts: because he wants secularism to come from the Protestants. I would aver, and say that it was already rampant in the pre-Reformation Catholic Church.

10 August 2013 21:09  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Albert:

I wasn't clear - I meant the first part, that faith always involves something of God. Not the logical extension (which it appears Martin does indeed make). If you re-read my post, if I was making that point, I would have essentially just said "I'm not a Christian on this point". :)

10 August 2013 21:11  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

You've clearly got better familiarity with the sources than I have. However, I'm not so sure that the examples you give really go against Duffy. Let's suppose that someone gives a statue of the Virgin Mary for political reasons. Why a statue of the Virgin Mary? A particular kind of modern politician might have political reasons for supporting a statue of Bomber Harris, but that would not mean he was not a supporter of Harris! Similarly, the Oxford memorial to the Protestant Reformation "martyrs". This was put up partly for political reasons, but that does not alter the fact that is was an act of "devotion" to the Protestant Reformation. In a sense, I fear you may be drawing too sharp a distinction between secular and religious - one that seems ill-suited to the Medieval mind, in my view.

I'm really interested at how the same kinds of ideas about "pious" activity can be found, re-expressed, in secular government for entirely secular ends.

That Catholicism can be re-expressed for "entirely" secular ends, speaks to me of the triumph of Catholicism.

Very often too, it is not the merchants who are indebted to the Church but vice versa: by the late medieval period you're getting an awful lot of secular clergy who are not only being paid for out of public funds, but directly appointed, and even sacked, by civic officials - especially if they end up on the wrong side of a locally-contentious issue.

The same point again, only with the added element of ill-discipline. If the local clergy suggested civic officials might benefit politically by appointed and dismissing local clergy, they would be regarded as mad.

because he wants secularism to come from the Protestants.

Having ecclesial and secular authorities both concerned with religion is not secularism as I understand it. The secularism I mean is the secularism which breaks down the local Church community, so that what was done under the auspices of religion, comes to be done under different auspices (if at all). Society ceases to be sacred/sacramental, buildings cease to be sacred/sacramental, places cease to be sacred/sacramental. the world ceases to be sacred/sacramental. We see this clearly in the first generations of the Protestant Reformation.

That some kind of secular realm is created by Catholicism is beyond dispute. It comes from on the one hand a proper understanding of nature and grace, and on the other the de-divination of nature, both of which are integral to Christianity. It is the ejection of grace from the secular which is the tragedy of the Protestant Reformation. More is lost than just tradition Christian England (to be replaced by an almost self-consciously fictious view of history). What is lost is Christianity from England.

10 August 2013 21:44  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

faith always involves something of God

I would have hoped that was entirely uncontroversial in any truly Christian community!

10 August 2013 21:45  
Blogger Albert said...

Now I'm unclear:

If the local clergy suggested civic officials might benefit politically by appointed and dismissing local clergy, they would be regarded as mad.

I mean if contemporary clearly suggested that.

10 August 2013 21:47  
Blogger Albert said...

Or even contemporary clergy!

10 August 2013 21:48  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Albert:

Perhaps Catholics are less anxious about the psychological provenance of donations - it's a point worth musing on. I'd also gladly qualify that I wouldn't swing into the opposite direction of saying that it was only about political gain. My point was more that Duffy often wants to efface such motivations entirely in favour of a kind of unproblematic devotion - and there I must disagree with him.

I don't think that it's entirely out of place in the medieval period though, since there are plenty of examples in sermons and literature that suggest a similar anxiety. I think particularly of Piers Plowman (which also has the advantage of being substantially "pre-Reformation") and Langland's tortured concern both for the Church's involvement in secular affairs, from the throne to the alleys of Cheapside, and vice versa. I don't think he could have written what he did if material gain had no effect whatsoever on the relationship between the secular and the ecclesiastical, and no impact in the mind of (clearly sincerely faithful) Christians.

"The same point again, only with the added element of ill-discipline. If the local clergy suggested civic officials might benefit politically by appointed and dismissing local clergy, they would be regarded as mad."

This is the kind of thing which depends very much on the specific context, but the thing to remember is that even as you have civic-beneficed secular clergy, you have civic authorities with ecclesiastical seigneurs, clerical landlords, members of the clergy who have lands and interests in their own personal rights, and more than a few senior churchmen with political roles of their own in civic governance. That kind of complication doesn't lend itself to unmessy relationships. Usually, in fact, senior clerics tried to maintain a certain degree of impartiality - but very often because retaining their position and authority is dependent upon doing so. The clergy lower down the ranks tend to play more eagerly with the civic authorities - surely in part because doing so could genuinely advantage their career. Having a powerful local patron could make all the difference in getting a permanent benefice - and rising up the ranks to the point where impartiality was the greater virtue for retaining what had been achieved.

As to who held the balance of power in suggestions, it really is very difficult to establish, as much of it would have been oral. The best that can be done is to try and trace careers and affiliations - but at the end of the day, even a purely clerical appointment could have been influenced by secular pressure which hasn't been recorded, just as a civic-beneficed post might have been only rubber stamped by the council. In most cases, one possibility is going to appear more likely, but it is, unquestionably, far from absolute certainty.

"Having ecclesial and secular authorities both concerned with religion is not secularism as I understand it."

That isn't really what I meant though. I'm not talking about "religiously motivated civic action" - I'm talking about a civic morality that was heavily influenced by the language and assumptions of the religion, but had at its centre, an idea that the worshipful men who enacted it were the creators of their own virtue. A virtue in which the Church was subordinated to mercantile ambitions. In this instance, the strongest supporting evidence from that is not in hostility to the Church, but indifference, non-attendance at non-civic services, and pointed refusal to support the Church financially even when it came to legally-obligated tithes; until, that is, doing so became expedient. To be clear: there are at least as many tales to tell as there were people, but the kind of biography I'm outlining was not entirely exceptional - and, was rarely an impediment to rising high, even to positions where the same individuals had some measure of influence over their local parishes.

10 August 2013 22:11  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Albert:

Ah some of what I wrote is probably unnecessary looking at your clarification of contemporary clergy.

Certainly in this country - but that's partly because nobody would see engagement with the Catholic Church (or any Church) as being particularly good for one's career. Quite the opposite usually.

In NI you get something closer - I'll use the example of the Protestant community (partly because I'm more familiar with it, and partly because it balances out the idea that this is a "Catholic problem"): in DUP circles, having religious MPs is still pretty necessary. I can't speak for all of them - but certainly in some cases, such affiliations are, shall we say, convenient - both amongst politicians and clergy with political ambitions.

The crucial thing, from a Christian perspective, is that not all of them are cynical, and that even where leaders really are cynical, "parishioners" (or electorate) are not, and do not want cynical representation or leadership. One of the findings of the social attitudes survey in 2008 was that most voters wished that church-state relations would remain "as they are" - but were hostile to either a decline, or conversely an expansion of religious authority. I like to think of that as faithful pragmatism.

10 August 2013 22:20  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Anyway, back to sin. Which god are we sinning against ?

If any of you theological navel gazers can provide a link between the gods of the OT and NT, then let this wretch before you know...

Warning. In his fifty something years, he’s yet to see one that works, other than in the author’s mind...

(Note to one’s self - stand by for plenty of footsteps and whistling down empty corridors, and no responses,,,)


10 August 2013 23:17  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

Certainly in this country - but that's partly because nobody would see engagement with the Catholic Church (or any Church) as being particularly good for one's career. Quite the opposite usually.

Exactly. So even if an individual is entirely unbelieving and cynical, the wider culture, being profoundly Catholic required them to behave in a Catholic way. That actually supports Duffy's thesis. I doubt Duffy expects each and every event to be entirely devotional. In a sense, it is the fact that there are unCatholic types behaving in a Catholic way which proves the power of the culture.

Culture is of course something that Catholicism is profoundly interested in. We are realist enough to know not everyone is going to be a saint of their own volition, it is the power of culture that matters. It is that power that the Reformation trashed for, in the most part, secular leaning reasons - take the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Hard to imagine the English Reformation succeeding culturally without that move, but hard to imagine the Dissolution happening without secular motives.

That, fundamentally is the difference here. Catholic culture supports Catholic behaviour even of the lukewarm, Protestantism is parasitic on the iconoclasm of secularism and extends and justifies the effectiveness of that secularism.

10 August 2013 23:17  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

My point was more that Duffy often wants to efface such motivations entirely in favour of a kind of unproblematic devotion - and there I must disagree with him.

This seems to be the nub of it. Can you give an example, together with what he actually says?

Perhaps Catholics are less anxious about the psychological provenance of donations - it's a point worth musing on.

Surely everyone recognises that there are mixed motivations for almost all, and even the highest, actions. That' swhy a Christian culture is so important, and why, in the long run, Protestantism is so unsuccessful. It breaks down culture thereby removing social motivaiton and, by sola fide removes religious motivation. This is why Protestants were so supremely terrible at evangelism for their first few centuries.

10 August 2013 23:25  
Blogger Albert said...

Inspector,

If any of you theological navel gazers can provide a link between the gods of the OT and NT, then let this wretch before you know...

What do you mean by implying they are different gods?

10 August 2013 23:26  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Welcome to the Albert in Belfast Blog.

10 August 2013 23:33  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Indeed Integrity.

{BANGS HEAD ON DESK}

10 August 2013 23:36  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Albert:

On this point we have substantially different views. It's the quality of faith which I would prioritise above all else.

I think too, that you perhaps underestimate what effect that its absence may have. If I might make an observation of contemporary culture: for those on the right, many see the "reformation" of the 1960s as destroying the essential Christian character of our culture wherein the cultural and intellectual iconoclasm (many would say vandalism) dismantled something essentially admirable into its present state. To my mind, whilst the 60s were the moment in which the statuary was smashed, so to speak, it was only possible because of the disenchantment that preceded it. I know, for instance, that Peter Hitchens would see that disenchantment as stemming from the cultural and spiritual crisis in Europe in WWI.

I think something similar was happening in late medieval Europe - cynicism in part, but above all a kind of failure of faith - by which I do not only mean actual unbelief and even atheism, but also the idea that God could not be relied upon to always do what needed to be done.

One way of looking at this in evidence is to pay close attention to what exactly gets destroyed. You get plenty of instances where the statuary, relics, and liturgical accoutrements are stacked up in the town square and burnt, but even as their doing this, visually identical art, imagery and artefacts in a secular setting are left entirely alone. That's why very often you had saint-covered houses surviving well into the 1800s (though substantially fewer have survived beyond that). It's not the culture that is being trashed per se: it's the culture that was supposed to be imbued with divine power. Now I know MacCulloch et al would say: there you are, they were Protestants at heart destroying false idols, whilst Duffy et al would say: they are being coerced, in their own homes they remain Catholic. The former doesn't work with the evidence of recusants and the persistence of Catholic devotion; but the latter doesn't work entirely either since by no means were all burnings coerced. I know I've cited it here before, but there is a really harrowing entry from a Ghentian priest who laments the fact that his parishioners turned up on one Sunday pious as ever, and then turned up a day afterwards to burn it down.

There is something more at work than straight politics, and something more at work than straight Protestantism. From a historical perspective, I'd place it as an unlicensed response to material culture: these people are performing - outrageously - in a continuation of the performances of piety to which they know as day-to-day devotion (eyewitness accounts often include bizarre inversions of liturgical processions, or the taunting of idols that cannot save themselves pacé the Cross); it's a Bakhtinian carnival, disorder, defined in relation to the usual order, which is permitted to get further out of hand by the egging on, rather than the application of censure, by the authorities.

From a theological perspective, I'm afraid I see Jerusalem, summoning their King at the beginning of the week and crucifying Him at its close.

That's why I can't accept that a culture is enough: because even a culture immersed in the Scriptures, actively observing the rituals, giving their due tithes, and practicing appropriate charity can turn in emnity to the Lord.

In a sense, faith is always, in some way, counter-cultural. It always rubs up against the eased-into status quo. It is always restless for perfection, because it always yearns for glory. You can appease such longings for a time with cultural substitutes, but you cannot sate them. Where faith dwindles, their power to placate dwindles too.

When that happens, its time to set out like Piers in search of the Castle of Love. If you've never read it, I'd really recommend giving it a shot.

10 August 2013 23:49  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Albert:

Citations - off the top of my head, as I'm not at home - see the section regarding the Tiverton family in Marking the Hours where he takes up the issue directly. I think it's towards the middle of the book.

10 August 2013 23:55  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Mr Integrity and Inspector (the latter of whom cf., Albert):

Fine you phillistines, I'm shutting up. You can go back to telling everyone to vote UKIP now.

10 August 2013 23:59  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

OIG

Re: The connection

Ummm ... you mean beside all those OT quotations by Jesus that could only be authoritative if they were derived from the same God about whom Jesus testified? Who exactly prophesied the birth of Jesus? Who established the Throne of David Forever? By whom did the prophets prophesy? The great god Baal?

carl

11 August 2013 00:02  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

OIG

What do think Christianity is? You aren't recognizably Roman Catholic. You aren't Protestant in any sense. Neither are you Orthodox. You present as a Therapeutic Moralistic Trinitarian. But that would only be nominally Christian and otherwise something of a contradiction. So what exactly are you since your connection to historic Christianity is ... well ... non-existent?

carl

11 August 2013 00:31  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Belfast. Don’t take exception, that man. You continue with your party, only do us all a favour and exchange e-addresses. One feels he’s interrupting when he signs on to a thread graced by you two, so he does...

Carl. The ‘nice god and nasty god’ enigma of the NT and OT needs explaining. But alas, by a better man than you, don’t you think ?

11 August 2013 00:32  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Carl, at 00:31. This man is a Christian. A follower of Christ, if you will. He doesn’t do baggage, mind. His is a simple faith. If some mad man wanted to murder his son up some mountain several thousand years ago, then this man walks out the room. Really, he just can’t handle it.

11 August 2013 00:37  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Inspector:

I should have put a smiley. That was my best attempt at an academic flounce.

I shall retire as gracefully as my wounded ego permits.

11 August 2013 00:47  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inspector

I shudder to put any label on you.

Do you think God "mad" for sending His Son into the world to be murdered so brutally? Or was Jesus "mad" for meekly letting Himself be led to His own slaughter?

Did you sleep through religious instruction?

You claim to be a supporter of the Tridentine Mass. Is it the Latin that gets in the way of comprehension?

Have you never attended the three great Easter services, culminating in the Easter Vigil? Do you listen to the cycle of Biblical readings over the 3 year Church calendar?

It's all there for you if you actually attend, stay awake and concentrate! Failing all the above, try reading the Catechism.

11 August 2013 01:05  
Blogger non mouse said...

Thought-provoking post, Dr. Mullen; thank you.

Anachronism is indeed difficult to address, especially now that connections to, and continuity with, our cultural traditions are deliberately eradicated by educators, politicians, and the media.

The situation is compounded by the ignorance of a technological generation, which seems to work on the priniciple that the modern young know everything just because they can press a few Chinese-made plastic buttons and be "amazed." Oh --- and because they believe (and I quote) "Computers are better than people." Well ... I guess computers cannot sin.

No wonder, then, that Microsoft presumes to present its word-processing program as the word in the sky ... and hardly anyone considers the concept an insult to the Judaeo-Christian Word and words. I haven't heard a single Christian expression of protest or "Offence."

Microsoft notwithstanding, serious scholarship and the search for truth always have been quite rare - as those who study ancient documents and monuments will probably agree. The ancient knowledge of wise men was passed to a select few and used to advise the rulers - thus priests and poets like the Druids retained power and influence within their own caste.

Perhaps it's worth bearing in mind, though, that communities and populations were never so large as they are today. So proportionately more of the young had more contact with their educated leaders and teachers - even (or especially) when the culture and knowledge-base was transmitted orally. And once that culture was Christian, then the concept of Sin was omnipresent: as it is not, today.

From hearing and learning the scriptures, they knew as you say: scriptural writers believed that by sin death entered the world and the gospel story tells us that even God himself in Christ was subject to this death. I must say I have long seen this as extending into the idea that Christ's death ended the need for the barbaric practices of Human and Child Sacrifice; and that the Last Supper turned any attachment to Cannibalism into Symbology.

One point your discussion omits has, I think, been mentioned by Len. Our involvement with Sin depends on choice and Will. So, as Boethius noted, God being omnipresent knows perpetually and eternally what choices we will make: but we still have to make them for ourselves, and in our times and places.

We obviously can't know how 'ignorance of God's Law' will affect His final Judgement of the benighted moderns. But our cultural backsliding and corruption will undoubtedly cause much physical suffering in this overpopulated world.

The ancients paint the picture for us, time and again ... but ..... I guess the Progressives just don't see how it works in a world full of bird-choppers, made-to-break products, pornographic entertainment, and electronic oversight.


11 August 2013 02:21  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

OIG

The enigma exists only within the realm of your own misunderstanding. It takes no great stature to explain this. That's why you made no response to what I actually said. You have nothing to say about it. Why would there be OT prophesy if the God of the OT is different from the God of the NT? Why would Jesus appeal to the false prophesies of a false god?

Otherwise, you have said nothing. Every counterfeit liberal Christian calls himself a 'follower of Christ' who possesses a 'simple faith.' Got anything else? A definition of the Gospel perhaps?

carl

11 August 2013 02:21  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

OIG

Your question is surprising coming from one who claims to profess Christian faith.

The shortest answer is the one Jesus gave to the disciples ont road to Emmaus where he criticised them forctheir ignorance of the many OT prophecies concerning himself and proceeded to expound them from Moses onward.

You could start with the stories of Isaac and the substitutionary ram, the bronze serpent Moses lifted up and the passover lamb-all OT 'types'of Christ and move on to Isaiah 53 which describes the crucifixion hundreds of years before the event. The OT is full of prophecies and stories pointing forwards to Jesus.

All of which is foolishness to those who are blinded by the god of this world, but to those who are being saved, the wisd om and power of God

11 August 2013 05:20  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Oh, oh, here we go again. It appears our inimitable Inspector got himself into a spot of trouble once again with his irascible pen. I don't normally wade into theology here, but since my Torah is under discussion....

It seems that our Inspector is troubled by the Akedah--the binding of Isaac--and some take exception to this. Well, golly-gosh, it is quite a troublesome account from any angle, is it not? Who can blame anyone for being put off? Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his only cherished son? Why would the son, a young man in his prime, willingly allow himself to be bound by an old man? Why was Abraham stopped by God through His messengers/angels at the last moment? And so on and so forth. A common and traditional explanation I favour is that in a world where human sacrifice was routine, the Akedah definitively and through example established that God rejects human sacrifice for any reason...including an apparent command from Him. Others can of course draw different conclusions, as they surely will, but the Inspector's notion that Abraham was a fanatical nutter who is not to be emulated in this is consistent with at least one authoritative Jewish interpretation.

The other offense the Inspector is accused of is in not seeing much of a connection between the Torah and your Gospels. Well, hate to step on a lot of toes here tonight, but there is little connection between the two...in my humble opinion, of course. For us, the written Torah is incomplete without the Oral Torah, which is the teaching Moses received from God and passed on down to our Sages and rabbis. Without this vast tradition the Torah, your "Old" Testament as it were, makes little sense. And Christianity cannot rightly claim to be guided by the Torah while it rejects the majority of its traditions, teachings and laws, all for being, well, too Jewish.

So, yes, taken as it is, plonked as a rather lengthy introduction to your Bibles, with the flimsy (mis)translations and without the living faith and seen only through a historically hostile Christological lens, the Torah and its God can indeed look quite frightful and mean. A stern, unfeeling and overly ritualized fossil in dire need of something better. And so, the Inspector is right: Christianity would do well to separate from its imagined connection to the Torah which it has, anyway, turned into a museum document where we, the naughty (for some, God-murdering) and unbelieving Jews serve as testimonial puppets supposedly waiting in the wings for a glorious conversion before the cosmos turns into a giant Coca Cola commercial. And the only use Christianity appears to have for our Torah anyway is in the imagined prophesies about Jesus. That may have been useful a couple of millennia ago, but Christianity is now big enough and accomplished enough to do without such flimsy attempts at self-validation. So why not just quote a few paragraphs from Isaiah or whatever looks good and cut down on printing costs and save a lot of trees?

I don't mean to be insulting, especially to smart, kind and good Christians as yourselves. Remember, while some of you may consign most of humanity to lurid Pagan visions of Hell just for thinking wrongly, "my" God doesn't condemn people for keeping different faiths. And, Christianity and Judaism do share a common history, close cultural, ethical and perhaps even political affinities, especially in the coming age of Nihilism and neo-Paganism in the guise of secularism. Hopefully, our future relationship will be better than it was before...but I'd say that we are finally mature enough to recognize that theologically we're truly worlds apart.

11 August 2013 05:44  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

Yes, we are worlds apart. It is the difference between receiving Jesus as the Messiah foretold in the OT or rejecting Him as Messiah. But you are a Jew. OIG claims to be a Christian. We aren't supposed to be worlds apart. Except he doesn't appear to have the first clue about it. I am struck dumbfounded at times by his lack of comprehension. He understands nothing about the Sacrifice of Abraham, for example. I wasn't kidding when I said he presents as a Therapeutic Moralistic Deist with some Trinitarian baggage attached.

carl

11 August 2013 06:28  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

OIG (and Avi)

The scripture I was looking for is in Luke 24: 25-27

'Then (Jesus) said to them 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?'

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself'.

Its all there if you are willing to see it. Multiple prophecies and other writings in the Torah and Psalms point forward to and triangulate upon Christ. This is high level evidence for Christianity being true, there is no parallel body of fulfilled prophecy in any other belief system.

Of course people who don't want to believe (the heretic 'bishop' John Shelby Spong and his fellow enemy of the Gospel Richard Dawkins for example) will assert that the events of Christ's life were all invented after the event, just as the Jews of Christ's time asserted that he disciples stole the body. They had to say that, they had nowhere else to go other then believe and they weren't going to do that.

Returning to the subject of the post, sin is a worse problem than we realise since we are all contaminated and tend to excuse ourselves.

On our (and I do mean OUR) blindness to our own sin, I find the writing of Theodore Dalrymple interesting. An atheist (although not of the virulent proselyting variety), he noted that the Christian doctrine of Original Sin could be empirically proven based on repeatable observations of human behaviour.

As a prison doctor, Dalrymple described the 'Vision of the Immaculate Inner Self' which all the convicts he knew experienced. The burglars only took from those who could afford it (besides, its all covered by insurance, innit?' the rape victims had all been asking for it and when underage had looked much older, the murder victims had all had it coming. In short, this atheist prison doctor noted that every last extortionist, thief, armed robber and nonce excused and justified himself and believed that society had misjudged and unfairly treated him.

The Bible says we are all much the same. The church ought to talk much more about sin, other people's as well as our own. John the Baptist got his head cut off for doing so, Saint Stephen got stoned to death, Paul was beheaded. We will probably only be called hypocritical bigots.

There is a line in a contemporary worship song

'I'll never know how much it cost

To see my sin upon that cross.'

PS Avi, I love the Torah, Proverbs and Psalms and read them regularly for their own goodness, not only because they are the foundation upon which the Gospel was build. Kind regards.

11 August 2013 06:57  
Blogger non mouse said...

Avi - Except for the lack of Religious Instruction in schools, I have no idea why anyone cannot see the connection between the OT and NT --- without the first, the second could not have been. Without Judaism, there could have been no Christ. Had there been no Old Law, He could not have come to uphold it.

Jesus was a Jew, so was His mother, and so was His father. The genealogies showed us how.

Furthermore, we British would have preserved no literary or any other culture, had there been no Old Testament. Where does anyone think half our understanding of poetry came from but for the Psalms? The monks had to recite them all daily, at one time! You can't do that without recognising the structures and models they're teaching in Rhetoric classes!

And our understanding of Law? Had not our scribes and kings Leviticus, as well as the Ten Commandments from which to build?

And our understanding of historical record and literacy as a whole? Did our own oral traditions not parallel and benefit from the comparison, the development, and the preservation in written form?

All right, so Greek teachers brought it to us in Latin, and later preachers translated it into English. And when the Vikings plundered all our beautiful manuscript books, King Alfred came along and said - 'hey, we'd better save this tradition, or we'll have nothing.' So they saved it. Until the frogules arrived and messed things up again --- but the monks and monasteries still managed to hold it all together, and in English. Until the froglings decided they had to talk to us, and they wanted to stay: and so they did it in English (cf. Henry IV and esp. Henry V).

Overall, the principal reason our beautiful British cultures survived and developed was the underlying Hebrew Truth, combined and translated for our times and climes.

And that's without even mentioning all the Bible stories generations of children grew up with. (Jacob, David, Moses, Ruth, etc).

So. As we lose all that to a dirty, smelly, witless, spineless, mess of neu corruption, and the miasma rising from it-- Well. Let's hope somebody, somewhere, holds on to the cultural heart, soul, and mind that preserves The Judaeo-Christian Word of God .................

11 August 2013 07:06  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Steve: "Of course people who don't want to believe (the heretic 'bishop' John Shelby Spong and his fellow enemy of the Gospel Richard Dawkins for example) will assert that the events of Christ's life were all invented after the event, just as the Jews of Christ's time asserted that he disciples stole the body."

To me, the Gospels shout out that they are contrived narratives intended to tick all the previous prophesy boxes for their readers. They seem to lurch along at times, doing just that.

"They had to say that, they had nowhere else to go other then believe and they weren't going to do that."

The tone I get from that is that people like me are making a special effort not to believe what is written there. That is, it obviously happened but we're jumping through hoops to deny it. Certainly from my position of natural (and to me, healthy) scepticism, I assume the world and obeys the observed rules until there is very good reason to think otherwise.

So, I expect Ram Bahadur Bomjon (The Buddha Boy) to die after not eating and drinking and the fact that he doesn't implies that he's doing so regularly out of sight rather than that there's something magic happening. The latter is quite literally fantastic to me, and I expect to you too.

11 August 2013 07:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

It's the quality of faith which I would prioritise above all else.

I think too, that you perhaps underestimate what effect that its absence may have.


I think then, we are at crossed-purposes. I am asking whether England was crying out for Protestant Reformation, whether Beverley Minster was really built in a proto-Protestant style etc. I am not saying everything was perfect (it never is), I am not saying people did not complain about the Church (they always do, sometimes, justly sometimes not). I am asking whether, culturally, England was Catholic and whether England was more devotionally Catholic - for all the faults of the Church - than the received view asserts (and it is an assertion).

You get plenty of instances where the statuary, relics, and liturgical accoutrements are stacked up in the town square and burnt, but even as their doing this, visually identical art, imagery and artefacts in a secular setting are left entirely alone.

It has always struck me as being telling that in churches the Protestants pulled down the images of Our Lord and the Saints and replaced them with images of themselves. A celebration of their secular earnings and status comes even into church at the expense of God himself. It's a classic example of the secularisation of the country.

since by no means were all burnings coerced. I know I've cited it here before, but there is a really harrowing entry from a Ghentian priest who laments the fact that his parishioners turned up on one Sunday pious as ever, and then turned up a day afterwards to burn it down.

Yes, but this is a classic missionary move. When Christianity was conquering Europe, the priority was to show the idols did not have any power. You did this by breaking them down and showing the gods were powerless to stop you. Protestantism did this in the Reformation, people saw it, saw that those who did the violence didn't suddenly get struck down and thought "these relics don't have power after all". Of course it was a non-sequitur, Christianity is not paganism and our strength is made perfect in weakness. For those who wished to see the punishment of such violence against the sacred, you only had to look at the general violence that was breaking out across the continent, and from our perspective, you only have to look at the loss of faith from Europe.

I think therefore, that you analysis is still missing something: the power of sin. As Newman wrote:

But consider what sin is in itself; it is rebellion against God; it is a traitor's act who aims at the overthrow and death of His sovereign

There is a strongly rebellious streak in humanity which will often just join itself to any rebellion going. You can blame the Church for not having got rid of this rebellion, but the heart of man is dark - you might as well blame Jesus for having not succeeding in getting rid of this rebellion from Judas - he had three years to do so.

The fact that parishioners turned up one day pious as anything and then burnt the Church the next shows their motivation was not Protestantism, but sin.

11 August 2013 09:01  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

Marking the Hours where he takes up the issue directly. I think it's towards the middle of the book.

Sadly, that's one of the books I don't have. I will try to find it the example in those that I do.

11 August 2013 09:06  
Blogger The Explorer said...

DanJ0 @ 07:49

Your second paragraph.

Of course they are contrived. Every document going is contrived (in the sense of 'constructed') in terms of audience, context, purpose and allowable word length. Even something random, like 'Ulysses' has carefully-contrived randomness.

I agree with you re prophecy and 'Matthew'. (Although there's also Christ as the new Moses, or personified Israel).

The others have prophecy, but the emphasis of 'Mark' seems to me to be on things coming slowly into focus; of 'Luke', Christianity in relation to the Roman Empire; and of 'John' the seven signs by which Christ identified himself.

11 August 2013 09:29  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

I quite like it when Mr Belfast and Albert go head to head on a intellectual discussion. You see it beats reading on every thread about the latest actions of 'big gay' /pink news etc.

11 August 2013 09:38  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

To my mind, whilst the 60s were the moment in which the statuary was smashed, so to speak, it was only possible because of the disenchantment that preceded it. I know, for instance, that Peter Hitchens would see that disenchantment as stemming from the cultural and spiritual crisis in Europe in WWI.

No, the disenchantment goes back much further - to the Reformation, I think. Once man sets himself up as the authority as the Reformation sets man up as the authority over scripture and the Church, sin will exploit it. The authority that enables you to critique the Church later enables you to critique the Bible (and such critiques need not be insincere in a context in which there is so much disagreement over what the Bible means) and even God himself. The latter critique is particularly tempting when voluntarism has been adopted and God has become a terrifying power whose will is all. It's easy enough to see how someone first dislikes that power, second seeks to do away with it and finally enthrones their own will in its place. Thus there is by this route a direct line from Ockham through the Protestant Reformers to modern secularism, and by the former critique of scripture a direct line from the Reformers to secularism.

If you want a monument to the Protestant Reformation "look around you."

11 August 2013 09:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Thank you Hannah,

You see it beats reading on every thread about the latest actions of 'big gay' /pink news etc.

Yes, there was a certain comic irony about some earlier comments!

11 August 2013 09:53  
Blogger LEN said...

We can have an intellectual grasp of the scriptures but is that Faith?. Many join a Church and believe that belonging to the Church saves them.This is a false hope which condemns them to an eternal separation from God.
Even the demons acknowledge God.It is somewhat ironic that the demons recognised God but the Pharisees didn`t?.
Man has been so corrupted by sin that God even has to give His Faith to man for man to be able to perceive Truth.Faith is a gift from God to those who repent and seek God with honesty desiring His Truth above all else.


'For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.'(Romans 12:3)

Salvation is entirely a 'work' of God through His only mediator Jesus Christ and can only occur through repentance and a total re awakening through the in breathing- of the Holy Spirit into the once dead human spirit within man.
What the dead man(dead in sins) needs is Life and only Christ can supply that,

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.(John 14:6)

This is the 'offence of the cross' because Jesus says all 'other ways' except through the spiritual re birth(One Spirit with Christ) ordained by God are fraudulent.This is a fatal blow to the pride of the 'religious' who cannot accept that they are powerless to save themselves.

11 August 2013 09:57  
Blogger Albert said...

Len,

Many join a Church and believe that belonging to the Church saves them.This is a false hope which condemns them to an eternal separation from God.

I really don't think that is true. A Catholic certainly does not think he is saved simply by joining the Church. That position is really closer to the sola fide doctrine than one which believes that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Are there Protestants who think that by belonging to a Protestant community they necessarily have saving faith? Is that what you mean?

11 August 2013 10:02  
Blogger LEN said...

I find it incredible and totally hypocritical that Catholics criticise the Reformers when the Roman Church bears TOTAL responsibility for the Protestant Reformation.

IF catholic theologians had stuck to the scriptures instead of making up their own version of 'Christianity 'there would have been no need to 'reform' the errors of Catholicism.And there would have been no Church split(I mean the original Church split with the Eastern Church because of Roman heresies)

11 August 2013 10:05  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Albert @ 09:49

I'd agree with you re the timescale, but not with the source. I'd say the problem was the Renaissance (during which Protagoras, or Lucretius' 'De Rerum Natura', were rediscovered along with things more benign).

"Man is the measure of all things," is not, with respect, a REFORMATION concept.

Whether the Renaissance or the Reformation was the primary impetus behind the Enlightenment could open a debate akin to that with Belfast above.

In a paragraph, which do YOU think of the two was the primary influence?

PS: good to see you back on line. Hope you are fully recovered.

11 August 2013 10:29  
Blogger LEN said...

There is a false position often stated on this site that the Roman Church holds 'the truth' and has the 'sole rights' over salvation anyone outside of this Church is 'doomed '.(Or so it says!)

This of course is totally false and the only intention is to preserve the Roman Church and to uphold its prestige, its power, and its hold over its inmates.

The Roman Church has gone a different course from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is not based on a 'rock but an 'evolving religious system'(much like a snowball rolling down a steep hill gathering traditions, heresies, and 'interpretations' as its speeds headlong downhill.)One Pope contradicts another Pope and so on ad infinitum.Doctrines are introduced rejected re introduced etc.
'
The House built on 'the Rock' is the Church built on Christ Himself.

The are many Protestant Churches spawned out of mans greed and these are no better than the Roman Church I admit but these are relative new comers and will fare no better in the judgement as they also are leading many down the broad path to destruction and will
answer to God as well for their deception.

11 August 2013 10:30  
Blogger Albert said...

Thank you Explorer - yes I'm completely recovered now.

I'd say the problem was the Renaissance (during which Protagoras, or Lucretius' 'De Rerum Natura', were rediscovered along with things more benign).

But the question I would ask is why did such things have the effect that they did? To answer that question you have to look back to an earlier moment. In a sense, this is like the Reformation question. Obviously, there were things wrong with the Church prior to the Reformation, so it is easy simply to blame those things. However, there are always things wrong with the Church: Judas, Corinthians, Galatians, the various condemnations of the book of Revelation. So it's too simplistic to blame the Reformation on those things. If Protestant Reformations occurred when the Church was lukewarm then there would be Protestant Reformations throughout history. But there aren't. So we have to ask why did it happen in the 16th Century. The Greeks had been familiar with most of this pagan literature throughout their Christian history, but it did not result in Renaissance humanism there. What made the difference in the West? We have to look earlier for the cause.

"Man is the measure of all things," is not, with respect, a REFORMATION concept.

It most certainly isn't - quite the reverse. I'm not denying that the Protestant Reformers were on the whole a sincere bunch of men. I am saying that the effect of their reformation was secularising, and that, to a far greater degree than was present in the Medieval Church secular motivations (power, profit etc.) were causal.

In a paragraph, which do YOU think of the two was the primary influence?

Of course, I'm not sure how enlightening the Enlightenment was. However, insofar as we can agreed on some kind of movement, I would say probably the renaissance. I wouldn't want to exclude people like Galileo from the foundations of the Enlightenment. Descartes too was a Catholic (of sorts!). The Protestant Reformation has only an indirect effect: Protestantism has a lower view of human nature (and therefore of reason) than Catholicism, and certainly than the Renaissance. It's influence is in spite of itself: by desacralising the world the world becomes simply an object. Similarly, by endlessly disagreeing with itself and with Catholicism, and having removed the shared authority of the Church, it became necessary, for the sake of peace, to find some other authority. Naively, irrationally, and with hindsight, entirely falsely, it was assumed that reason could resolve our disputes. Secular thinkers often haven't really woken up to the irrationality of the Enlightenment assumption, even though at every moment, its falsity has been exposed by unprecedented violence.

11 August 2013 11:14  
Blogger Albert said...

Len,

And there would have been no Church split(I mean the original Church split with the Eastern Church because of Roman heresies)

But Len, surely you realise that, on most questions (i.e. apart from those relating to the authority of Rome) the Eastern Church is further away from Protestantism than Catholicism?

I find it incredible and totally hypocritical that Catholics criticise the Reformers when the Roman Church bears TOTAL responsibility for the Protestant Reformation.

Did you mean to imply the Protestant Reformation was a bad thing?

11 August 2013 11:23  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Albert:

Thanks for that very measured response.

Going out in five minutes, so reply must be brief.

Do you know Benjamin Wiker's 'Moral Darwinism: How we became Hedonists'?

Fascinating read, if you don't: he traces the root of the problem all the way back to Epicurus, and his particular villains are Machiavelli, Hobbes and Spinoza.

Will pick up on your reply later.


Regards.

11 August 2013 11:24  
Blogger Albert said...

Thanks Explorer,

Wiker's book sounds intriguing. One of the problems of our age is that people don't really know enough history of ideas. Modernity seems to have invented itself and is right and good just by being modern. There's no awareness of how things we take for granted rest on dodgy assumptions and often theological decisions made in Medieval times or earlier.

Machiavelli, Hobbes and Spinoza

I can believe it! The one saving grace of Hobbes, of course, is that he has a more realistic view of human nature than the so-called Enlightenment thinkers, whose irrational optimism has been the cause of so much human misery.

On this whole question (Nominalism vs Renaissance as cause of modernity), I would recommend The Theological Origins of Modernity by Gillespie, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society by Brad S. Gregory and, perhaps the most devastating, The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism Edward Feser, which traces the origins of modernity in Medieval absurdities in order to pull the rug from under modern secular ideas (and not just "New Atheism").

11 August 2013 11:42  
Blogger Albert said...

A warning: in none of the above books I should add, does the Protestant Reformation look good. It comes across as an intellectual staging post on the road from corrupt Medieval philosophy to secularism.

11 August 2013 11:44  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Non-mouse, a good point, but you are describing a cultural affinity that, like everything else at the time, flowered from religion. I was talking about theology as it is now. After Saul/Paul Christianity (Paulism?) did not need our Torah, which became an "old" testament for it anyhow.

Linguistically the world of the Torah is in the Afro-Asian language group, while the West's is in the Indo-European one. Words and more importantly concepts and "moods" do not translate easily between the two. This is all speculative (and enjoyable) alternate history stuff, but I think English would have done quite well with the Graeco-Latin, Germanic and Gaelic influences...in addition to Mongolian, had things turned a little differently.

But things are the way they are and now it's the English language and with it an Anglo culture, that have come to "colonize" contemporary Judaism in its current organizations, literature, communications and even a founding administrative language of the State of Israel.

11 August 2013 11:54  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Carl and Steve Appleseed, don't take our rejection of your messiah personally and don't feel singled out. We also rejected Bar Kokhva, dozens of post-Temple messianic claimants including Mohammed and many more in Europe right up to Joseph Smith and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. We seem to do this sort of thing quite often.

11 August 2013 12:14  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

PS In the fray of the debate I missed your greeting, Steve Appleseed. Kind regards from me as well. If I ever get my wish for a nice, long vacation tour of Britain, be sure that I'll be ringing you up to share an apple and a pint. Maybe by then I'll have learned to ride my wife's Bianchi well enough to join you on a short bike trip too. It's the bloody gears I hate on those things; much easier to double-clutch and shift 18 gears on a tractor trailer than to mess with a Shimano.

11 August 2013 13:06  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Well done Avi at 05:44 for your awareness of a very human condition – to wit, revulsion of a tragic incident where a man very nearly came to killing his own son in a most brutal fashion. One sees the real Christians on this site can walk through that chapter without missing a step. Damn interesting if you ask a fellow like this man.

And as for suggesting the OT god and the NT god differ in approach (perhaps the latter IS the former after submitting himself to anger management therapy) it’s tin hat time as the pious throw their bibles and him and say read it. Read it or be damned.

Well done for mentioning the ‘living faith’. Time to put the book down and do some of that, he suggests to his detractors. It’s not all in the bible, but no, there’s a chance yet it all is, apparently...

Finally, 05:44 is one of the most eloquent posts you’ve ever submitted here. My respect, Sir !

11 August 2013 13:18  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

More thought from this apparently pale shadow of a Christian...

He always considered that when Christ was teaching, he was issuing the very best of instruction. The kind of advice if followed, would not just lead to salvation, but a seat at the captains table. He asked the centurion to drop everything and follow him. Your man declined. Was that it then for the centurion. Would the rest of his life be in vain, because he was already in the bin, but didn’t know it ?

And what of the rest of you. Are you going to sell your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor ?

So when this man hopefully makes the journey, he’ll be in steerage. With the rest of you !


11 August 2013 13:38  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Avi: "We seem to do this sort of thing quite often."

We do too, plus one. :)

11 August 2013 13:42  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Thank you, Inspector, that's quite a compliment from a master of the English prose and the witty riposte with which he delivers the most unexpected and astonishing ideas. At my age it's hard to be surprised by anything, yet you deliver, like the reliable milkman it seems, on a daily basis. Regardless of what heresies you appear to be committing and what Purgatory you seem to be consigned to by our good, erstwhile and strident friends here, your ability to amuse, surprise and shock must count for something in this vast universe of ours. But let's not wallow in our triumphalism until the fat lady sings...or Peter D has posted his thing.

11 August 2013 13:47  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Albert @ 11:42 & 44

Thanks for the reading suggestions, and for the warning.

I've just downloaded the Feser onto my Kindle. I'm catholic in my reading habits, and can cope with criticism of the Reformation.

Wiker, by the way, is a Catholic.

11 August 2013 13:56  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Avi

It's my understanding that the Oral Torah has not always enjoyed uncontroversial authority. Indeed, the very time in which Jesus taught, you have the Sadducees persuing a very specifically literal version that is not wholly without analogy in certain modern evangelical hermeneutics. My knowledge of Jewish traditions is, I'm afraid, largely superficial, but am I right in thinking that there are traditions that use the written Scriptures in a more authoritative way as in Christianity?

Equally, it seems important to note that Jesus was himself an oral teacher: much of the Gospels is plainly derived from an oral teaching. So it would be unfair to say that Christians, ignorant of the detail though they may be, are in no way indebted to it. One of the difficulties with oral material is, of course, that we do not have access to the debates if they were not written down. You might as easily say that Christians have simply elected (or for the Calvinists in the room, been elected) to follow a different Rabbi's teaching. Moreover, it's a teaching which predates, if only by a matter of years, the desolation of the Second Temple and the impetus to formally codify the Oral Torah in Judaism.

Different traditions, to be sure - but we've rejected quite a few too :p

11 August 2013 13:58  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Inspector:

See you in steerage. I'll bring a bottle or two.

Just a query about the Centurion. Is that the one whose faith was praised and whose servant was healed? If so, he was cited as one of those who would have a seat at the wedding feast.

11 August 2013 14:09  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Albert:

Given that the consensus of our peers is against our further discussion, I hope you won't be offended by me limiting my response in this thread to our previous discussion.

I'll try and get a blog post up where I'd welcome continuing the discussion (though no pressure or obligation to do so). It is a pleasure not only to be able to discuss history but also, contra the academe, faith.

11 August 2013 14:14  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Belfast,

I'm glad your up and posting, having hopefully survived the latest spat of violence over the weekend...

11 August 2013 14:19  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Hi Hannah,

Didn't get caught in it, thankfully. There really are some idiots in Belfast.

(I'll leave the riposte to that remark to you Inspector)

11 August 2013 14:21  
Blogger David B said...

I'd like to thank Albert and others for doing their best to explain to me how they manage to integrate different meanings of the word 'sin' as some sort of unified whole, to be interpreted in....well, I was tempted the write 'the Christian tradition', but really it seems to be more in a variety of Christian traditions, Catholic in Albert's case, but not in others.

I don't find the explanations personally convincing, but they are, to me, evidence of the imagination often shown by people to maintain supernatural beliefs.

No doubt I will expand on the reasons I have for rejecting the supernatural in general, gods and goddesses in more particular, and most of the various concepts of the Christian/Judeistic/Islamic God in even more particular.

I say 'most of' because there are some sort of vague 'God as ground of being' concepts which are nothing to do with the traditional concept of a God who is interested in, and active in, the world, with particular reference to interest in particular human beings, or anything else supernatural, really.

That sort of concept of God seems to me not so much wrong as confusing.

David

11 August 2013 14:26  
Blogger Albert said...

Explorer,

I am delighted you've downloaded Feser. It's the fact that he goes through a general history of metaphysics that makes his book so useful. He helps us to see that right thinking free-thinkers are anything but free, and are really victims of earlier theological disputes.

It looks to me as if Wiker perhaps offers a compliment to this. Could you tell me if Wiker is really peddling Intelligent Design of the anti-evolutionary type?

So much to read. So little time!

11 August 2013 14:40  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast,

Given that the consensus of our peers is against our further discussion

I'm not sure that it could be described as a consensus. But yes, I enjoy our discussions, if you post something somewhere you'd like me to read, just let me know.

11 August 2013 14:42  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Explorer. Confusion in the office. The man that refused was another centurion, so memory has it. As distinct to the merchant who declined to liquidate his wealth and give it away.


11 August 2013 14:44  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Hannah. If you were to ask ten gay activists independently to name one improvement in their lives they would like to see, at the asking, you would not get ten answers. You would get one. Adherence to the Abrahamic religions to be made illegal...

11 August 2013 14:49  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi
The Inspector can believe what he likes and call himself what he likes. In this life, at least, its his business.

Given your robust defence of him and your equally robust attack on Christianity, maybe the Inspector should convert to Judaism. Theologically he shares much in common with your faith. He's been circumcised already so the process will be painless.

Or, he coulod just accept he's a "B'nei Noach", a righteous gentile, assured of a place in the world to come by following the seven laws.

Here's a thought: "The Inspectors Universal Church".

Belfast
Karaite Judaism rejects Rabbinic Judaism and the 'oral' traditions supposedly given to Moses.

11 August 2013 14:50  
Blogger Albert said...

David B,

Thank you - I'm unclear where you find the explanation of sin unconvincing.

they are, to me, evidence of the imagination often shown by people to maintain supernatural beliefs.

You won't be surprised to hear that I hold much the same opinion of the imagination of those who hold naturalistic beliefs!

That sort of concept of God seems to me not so much wrong as confusing.


Would this be an omniscience thing?

there are some sort of vague 'God as ground of being' concepts which are nothing to do with the traditional concept of a God who is interested in, and active in, the world, with particular reference to interest in particular human beings, or anything else supernatural, really.

You see, that I find odd. There is no way of knowing a priori what a creator would want from his creation, but I find it very odd that one would accept there is some kind of creator (especially one delivered by evidence fine-tuning and as the ground of being is constantly upholding the universe at each moment) and yet exclude the possibility that he is interested in his creation.

I just wonder if the reason this idea is popular among some people is because it permits the possibility of God (a possibility that can hardly be denied) while excluding him from our interests. In other words, it doesn't seem to me to be a deliverance of reason, rather a concession to reason, but a concession strait-jacketed by psychological concerns about human autonomy and against the supernatural.

11 August 2013 14:50  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Anyway, enough of that. We are on this post about sin...

11 August 2013 14:51  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

You're spot-on, AIB,. Then there were the literalist Karaites who sat in the dark on their Sabbaths, bumping into furniture and eating cold food thanks to their dogged literalism and now we have our modernized convolutions including liberal Judaism, which also rejects, or least politely ignores the Oral Torah in the form of the Talmud and up until recently, aped Christianity without actually admitting to it.

What amuses me is that in spite of all the hostility to the Pharisees, Christianity comes squarely from Pharisaic Judaism, with its mild rejection of the Temple Priesthood, frequent references to the Oral Torah and heavy infusion of messianism. Like contemporary Orthodoxy, Pharisaic Judaism was not a monolithic doctrine; it too spread over a wide enough spectrum to experience hostilities and schisms among its members. Judaism did generate quite a few movements and spin-offs which departed from the core, more than we know of, as most were flashes in the pan that either melted into the Gentile...Animist or Christian world... or re-joined the emergent Rabbinic Judaism. The process is quite "Darwinian," come to think of it; a further piece of evidence for me that God's incredible natural laws through which this universe was created and is kept running, through the all-embracing principles natural selection and evolution, echo and re-echo in history and our daily lives.

11 August 2013 14:51  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Peter D. It’s just as well you were never called to be a priest...

11 August 2013 14:53  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Ah, there you are, Peter D. Point of clarification: I did not attack Christianity, robustly or otherwise. I highlighted the differences and rejoice that we no longer spill blood over them. Christiany and Judaism "attack" each other without meaning to by default, by virtue of their profound theological differences...as you might have noticed in your studies of both religions.

As for the Inspector, I find it curious that you wish to shove him off the Christian community so rapidly. Are you afraid of he'll confuse the faithful, corrupt the children? Offer him hemlock, rather. What your conclusions are is your own business, of course, but from my neck of the woods any Christian who is a decent fellow is no different from a Ben Noah and deserves a place in the World to Come. So, methinks you're "stuck" with him and his grating ideas...soooo sorry.

Regarding the Karaites, yeah ok, a lving example of resistance to Rabbinic Judaism. I think there are about fifty families left in the world, with most of them barely observant and freely intermarrying. They never recovered after Maimonides and the Sa'adia Gaon gave them a whuppin' and it seems that the Torah doesn't work too well as a partial, literally interpreted document.

11 August 2013 15:09  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inpector, why's that? Does the truth hurt?

Believe me, a good, solid, manly, pre-Vatican II priest would have kicked your arse in public (metaphorically) for some of your observations on Christianity and Roman Catholicism.

Instead of spending hours on 'certain websites', and obsessing over one issue, why not explore your faith a bit more and at least try to understand its relationship to the Old Testament?

That or stick to train-spotting.

11 August 2013 15:10  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Albert:

Wiker is/was associated with the Discovery Institute, but is a theistic evolutionist. It is naturalistic evolution he finds problematic.

'Moral Darwinism' is about ethics, not biology: the conflicts that arise with a flexible evolving naturalistic morality. His point is that, morally, Darwin is the heir of Epicurus.

11 August 2013 15:12  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi
"I did not attack Christianity, robustly or otherwise."

Really?

11 August 2013 15:20  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Oh, Inspector, sorry for not welcoming you into the Mosaic faith. It's not only that traditions forbids me from proselytizing, but we've plenty of shit-disturbers already and most importantly, I don't look forward to another vicious competitor at the scotch and herring table after the services. Pure Darwinian survival of the fittest and rudest, eat or have someone eat it for you, rules there.

11 August 2013 15:23  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Peter D, really.

11 August 2013 15:23  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Peter D, like some cuckoo, you heave this man out of the nest. One repeats his base line. Religion is there to enable a greater understanding of God. You seem to have it that what is most important is to understand religion. To be honest, the understanding of God is a damn sight easier...

11 August 2013 15:27  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

DanJo

Yes I'm sorry to say you have understood me correctly. I believe that most likely people reject Christ due to hardness of heart, love of sin and wilful ignorance. Nothing personal, and nobody appointed me to be your judge, but I do believe based on my study of the available evidence that rejection of Christ as Saviour and Lord is culpable, since adequate evidence has been given and we refuse to accept it.

And the more that I try- and fail -to persuade people of the reasonableness of this position, the closer I find myself drifting towards Len's TULIP Calvinism.

Sorry. I tried to be an atheist once but I didn't have enough faith.

John ch 3 vs 19 lays it on the line

'And this is the condemnation, thst the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.'

It is what it is, I'm only a very unworthy messenger.

11 August 2013 15:27  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Relax Avi, this man is hanging on to his bacon sandwiches...

11 August 2013 15:29  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Albert:

If time is short, leave 'Moral Darwinism' and try 'Worshipping the State'.

The thesis is that in developing beyond Christianity, America is reverting to paganism: morally and politically.

I think you would find his treatment of the medieval division of Church and State of particular interest.

11 August 2013 15:37  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

In my pre-kosher days close to two decades ago, Inspector, I used to pile a whole package of crispy navy bacon, with an oozy and runny fried egg and sauerkraut into a sandwich. I owe my life and health to going kosher.

11 August 2013 15:37  
Blogger Albert said...

Thank you Explorer. I think Wiker sounds very interesting. I agree about naturalistic evolution - it is utterly problematic because there are no good reasons to believe in naturalism, and evolution, like all natural systems, counts against it. Similarly, I think you will like Feser for much the same reason. Naturalists seem to run on the idea that the only way to make a position water-tight is not to give an argument in its favour.

11 August 2013 16:08  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Steve: "Sorry. I tried to be an atheist once but I didn't have enough faith."

One simply needs to let go of the accumulation, I'd suggest. I'm lucky enough never to have accumulated stuff from Islam and I've never really been tempted towards Islam. I'm old enough to have accumulated some stuff from Christianity but I think I'm naturally inclined to be sceptical so it didn't really stick. I suspect others are naturally inclined to belief and so they take up suitable stuff from their environment. It's all fine as long as we all let the other just get on with it in their own lives.

11 August 2013 16:08  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inpector
"Religion is there to enable a greater understanding of God."

Well yes, but it requires listening, thought, study and prayer. And really its about transmitting God's revelation to us.

"You seem to have it that what is most important is to understand religion."

Er, no ... religion is a shared understanding of God's revelation, what it means, what He expects and how to worship Him. These are not discrete processes.

"To be honest, the understanding of God is a damn sight easier..."

Really? Without the Bible or a grasp of it? Do share the *understanding* of 'The Universal Church of Latter Day Inspectors'.

11 August 2013 16:18  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Avi

Well, I don't think from your description that we can have come from a Karaite tradition. There's always food at my church, owing to the presence of several lovely Northern Irish "mammies" with baking skills that are surely evidence of the divine.

11 August 2013 16:26  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

Commentary Magazine (an excellent magazine btw) once did an entire issue on the subject of 'What is a Jew?' It contained 60 essays from across the Jewish spectrum - Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Non-observant - on the subject. They agreed on only one thing. 'A Jew is not a Christian.' Michael Medved even commented on it. It is my understanding that the a Law of Return allows any Jew to return to Israel except a Messianic Jew. It would seem there are Orthodox Jews and Buddhist Jews and atheist Jews and nominal Jews but no Christian Jews. So here then would be my question to you. Is a Messianic Jew in fact a Jew? This is the closest analogy I can find to your question about OIG. The differentiation is found in belief.

The Christian faith is about Creed and Confession. You aren't born into it. You don't acquire it by blood or nationality or ritual. You receive and believe certain things. It has necessary content. OIG doesn't display any knowledge of let alone reception of that necessary content. If fact he openly rejects a fair part of it. So where does that leave him? I don't know. He won't say.

carl

11 August 2013 16:36  
Blogger Peter D said...

Plaintiff
"Now hang on one minute God.

"Don't you go blaming me. You made me "naturally inclined" towards scepticism. You made others "naturally inclined to belief" so they picked up "suitable stuff from their environment".

"It just so happens one lot "naturally inclined to belief" were in the right place at the right time. So really its all down to you.

"Now that's all fine and dandy, God. Just so as long as you let us all get on with it in Eternity."

God
"Well now, Who am I to Judge? Oh, that's right, I Am Who I Am - God.

I will let you get on with it in Eternity."

11 August 2013 16:39  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

No, no suggestion of a link between Karaites and Christianity, AIB. Paul and the growth of Christianity among Hellenized and Romanized Jews and later Gentiles led to the eventual rejection of the Oral Torah and Rabbinic Judaism which remained the only one standing; in spite of its rejection of Rabbanism, Karaites took on much stricter, literalist and fundamentalist interpretations of biblical Law, which never appealed to Christians. Other forms of Christianity and Judaism eventually folded or were reabsorbed.

Your church has the right idea; food, good food one remembers and looks forward to brings people and companionship, something a rabbi friend of mine proved when he brought in catering with hot meals and a selection of good liquors and more then doubled the cogregation's membership. Nothing theologically wrong with that trick, in my opinion.

11 August 2013 16:42  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Peter D, there are two different approaches here. ‘Pure’ theology, which leaves this man somewhat cold. And applied. Now, one’s ears prick up at the second.

You see, Isaac took his son up a mountain. Don’t really have any idea why he nearly succumbed to the voice in his head. Don’t need to understand that, or where it fits in with the overall story. But when it comes to loving one’s neighbour, different matter, because that’s what Jesus said. So, a Christian after all then...


11 August 2013 16:50  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Carl, regarding the Law of Return and Messianic Jews, it's not something I know off-hand, but the notion sounds suspicious to me. Perhaps it pertains to active and known missionaries. When Israel accepted refugees from what was the USSR, tens of thousands of Christians with tenuous or questionable connection to Jewishness came along too. There are now scores of Russian churches in Israel...and even antisemitic gangs vandalizing cemeteries and synagogues. Excellent magazine, Commentary is, I agree. I don't think Mr. Boot is too fond of it owing to its exuberant neocon positions and American triumphalism, though.

As for OIG, you seem to say that because Christianity is a belief-based religion, lack of theological learning or a critical approach puts one outside of the Pale, as it were. Perhaps from a theological perspective...that one's not for me to decide...but simple observation suggests to me that being born in a community, acquiring its past and culture, along with the simple act of self-identification go a long way in any religion, includidng mine, which is stricter than most on these matters.

11 August 2013 16:53  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Avi, a bacon rebel ?

Once asked my father if the family always ate fish on a Friday in days past. He replied the family was more concerned with eating on a Friday more than what was on the plate...


11 August 2013 16:55  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi
" ... being born in a community, acquiring its past and culture, along with the simple act of self-identification go a long way in any religion, includidng mine, which is stricter than most on these matters."

And there's one of the most significant differences between Judaism and Christianity.

Strict, external, social and religious conformity and identity v's internal transformation and an understanding of God.

The 'Old Law' as opposed to the 'New Law', as we Christians would say.

11 August 2013 17:08  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Ha! Not really, but I grew up secular, owing mostly to the fact that it was unwise to declare Jewishness in Eastern Europe, even to one's children and because food was so scarce most of the time, that one ate whatever one was given at the dispensaries after waiting an hour or two in a queue or whatever one was able to snatch on the black market. For vitamin C we used to eat raw onion salad and carrots through winter, and yet many a time we still got the bleeding gums and mouth sores from the onset of scurvy. Made us really appreciate food, though...

11 August 2013 17:09  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inspector

One wasn't required to eat fish on a Friday - merely abstain from meat. Do you know why?

As I recall, this wasn't a hardship as meat was a luxury usually reserved for Sunday.

11 August 2013 17:10  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Peter D

I don't intend to blow up another lengthy discussion, but it strikes me that it is worth considering comparing Avi's emphasis on shared culture and Albert's defence of a Catholic culture.

11 August 2013 17:17  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Sure, I'm familiar with that old jive, Peter. Only tells me how little you understand Judaism in spite of the veneer of spotty factoids you sport. Look up Hassidism and Mussar, Kabbalah and centuries of sermons, many hidden away in Midrash.

11 August 2013 17:17  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

My information was somewhat obsolete. An Israeli Supreme Court decision in April 2008 overturned restrictions for Messianic Jews. However there still seems to be legal action around the subject.

I noticed you didn't answer my question btw. Is a Messianic Jew in fact a Jew? Because if you answer 'No' then you make my case for me. You are attaching identification explicitly to belief.

carl

carl

11 August 2013 17:18  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Oh, sorry, Carl, forgot htat one. A messianic Jew who was born of a Jewish mother and voluntarily became a Christian even under the cheap missionizing guise of "messianic Judaism" is, of course Jewish. By all accounts. However he is in a state of deadly sin, namely avodah zarah, or idolatry. This needs clarification, a person born or raised a Christian, Muslim, even a Hindu is not an idolater, but a Jew who converts after age of majority or acquires foreign beliefs or superstitions is. One of the earliest examples of relativity theory, which might explain Marx, Freud and Einstein.

11 August 2013 17:29  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

Is non-belief considered a foreign belief system? If one chooses atheism after the age of majority, does that also qualify? I ask because what you said surprised me. That in fact was the subject of the Court case involving the Law of Return - did the plaintiffs change religion.

carl

11 August 2013 17:37  
Blogger Peter D said...

Belfast
I know its a fine distinction. It's all about the degree of emphasis placed on external compliance with cultural imperatives as opposed to a culture reflecting core beliefs.

A Christian African, with different ways of living, styles of dressing and culinary habits, is as much a Christian as an American, Russian, Indian etc.

Avi
See above.

Now why would I want to devote my life to trying to fathom the twists and turns of thousands of Jewish arguments, many contradictory, contained in the Midrash - and as for the Kabbalah!


11 August 2013 17:38  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Hmm, that's a good one, Carl, the question of is atheism idolatry. The Rambam...Maimonides...stipulated belief in a unified God in his Artricles of Faith, but atheism was so rare throughout history, Avicena and the Epicureans notwithstanding, that it rarely came up as an issue. Regarding the court case, Israeli state law, which is largely British in flavor is one thing, Jewish religious law, halakhah, something else. I don't know the halakhah on this one, nor whether it was a factor in the very secular, left-leaning Israeli courts.

11 August 2013 17:44  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Now why would I want to devote my life to trying to fathom the twists and turns of thousands of Jewish arguments, many contradictory, contained in the Midrash - and as for the Kabbalah!

Exactly, Peter, why would you? I never suggested you should...other than to perhaps lend more credence to your occasional pontifications on Judaism, that is.

11 August 2013 17:48  
Blogger Ivan said...

When Israel accepted refugees from what was the USSR, tens of thousands of Christians with tenuous or questionable...

I have to say Avi, that this a rather strange way to characterise the inducements that the Israelis directly gave to the denizens of the Soviet Union to leave, on the back of loan guarantees inveigled from the Americans.

11 August 2013 18:13  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi
And what of your "spotty factoid" views on Christianity ...

Our faith is based on your Torah and a flimsy (mis)translated one viewed through historically hostile Christological lens.

Really?

Your suggestion:
"Christianity would do well to separate from its imagined connection to the Torah which it has, anyway, turned into a museum document where we, the naughty (for some, God-murdering) and unbelieving Jews serve as testimonial puppets supposedly waiting in the wings for a glorious conversion before the cosmos turns into a giant Coca Cola commercial."

Really?

"And the only use Christianity appears to have for our Torah anyway is in the imagined prophesies about Jesus. That may have been useful a couple of millennia ago, but Christianity is now big enough and accomplished enough to do without such flimsy attempts at self-validation. So why not just quote a few paragraphs from Isaiah or whatever looks good and cut down on printing costs and save a lot of trees?"

Really?

Our acceptance of the Old Testament is no more than an imagined, self validation exercise. Thanks for pointing all this out. I see what the Vatican says about the views of one of our "elder brothers"

But then:

"I don't mean to be insulting, especially to smart, kind and good Christians as yourselves."

Really?

That's okay then.

11 August 2013 18:47  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avodah Zarah

Ummm .... very controversial this one. Some Judaic traditions still consider Christianity a serious form of 'avodah zarah'.

11 August 2013 19:07  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Belfast,

Glad you managed to steer clear of bottles, thugs and trouble!

12 August 2013 00:00  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Peter D,

'Strict, external, social and religious conformity and identity v's internal transformation and an understanding of God.'

That's quite amusing, given you are constantly rebuking Inspector for not having a strict enough external, social, religious conformity viz his religious beliefs and conformity to Catholicism ?

12 August 2013 00:08  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Avi,

Poor old you, eating onions and turnips for dinner and facing starvation, it does me grateful for not having to go hungry, though.

12 August 2013 00:16  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12 August 2013 00:41  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Carl,

I always took Messianic Jews to be Christian converts, as Messianic Judaism combined Evangelical Christianity with bits of Judaism in an effort to convert Jews to Christianity.

So no, I wouldn't say they were Jewish according to mainstream Jewish religion (Orthodox or otherwise), where you are either Jewish by your mum or by conversion & the non-orthodox take Jewishness as being via conversion and/or either parents.

In that respect it is no different from Mormons or JW's who claim themselves to be Christians, but where mainstream Christianity rejects this claim.

However, Avi is also correct that Orthodoxy would say that a Messianic Jew, born of a Jewish mother (or even an atheist) is also still a Jew.

Confusing isn't it, especially given the higher degree of tolerance for non-religious cultural cum atheist/ 'secular' Jews who go to the odd Bar Mitzvah and who 'try' and keep Kosher?

To my mind it is a bit like emigrating to another country. One can still be 'ethnically' British, maintain a certain culture of Britishness... but also legally become an American citizen, if the paper work is all done correctly?

[the same applies, I'd add to Jewish converts- if the 'paper work' so to speak is in order- then there is no distinction between a convert and some-one who is born into being Jewish- despite 'wot' the more secular Jews say].

One final though is that as Avi notes, there is a difference between Jewish religious law and the common law system of secular Israel. You've noted yourself that Israel is not a theocratic state or reconstruction of the 'old' Jewish Kingdoms.

Hence the debate (in Israel and the diaspora) on 'who is a Jew' and why Israel broadens this out in its laws of return, even further than orthodoxy or other branches of our religion, as a response to the outside forces (Nazi Germany) deciding who was and was not Jewish.

PS- Bhuddist Jew ? (lol!). Yes there are different tags we put on ourselves, but that's the beauty of an ethno-religious group of people

12 August 2013 00:49  
Blogger Peter D said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12 August 2013 01:41  
Blogger Peter D said...

Hannah

Well then, by that definition, I'm a Jew but, sadly, a naughty and damned 'Avodah Zarah' for accepting Jesus as the Christ.

Would Israel let me become a citizen?

I've already got joint Irish and British nationality. Imagine how cool a third one would be.

12 August 2013 01:44  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12 August 2013 01:44  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Hannah

Yes, it is confusing. The question interests me because I don't understand the answer. A man may become Jewish by natural lineage or by conversion. If by natural lineage then I don't understand how non-Jewish belief systems can ever play a part. This is why I asked Avi about atheism. Israel is a very secular country. There are many people in the country who believe no religion. How is this different from being a Christian with Jewish parentage? And yet it is.

I have always explained this to myself as a result of the fact that Judaism and Christianity are logical negations of each other. For one to be true, the other must be false. But that is not really a sufficient answer. All competing world views are logical negations of Judaism. It seems to me that the Jewish convert to Christianity is considered something of a traitor who has betrayed his own people. If you talk to Jewish converts they will freely tell you of the familial cost imposed upon them because of their decision. I can understand the pain of losing a child to another religion, but this doesn't seem to be purely about religion. The attitude seems to be "Believe what you like, but not that."

This is what I don't understand.

carl

12 August 2013 01:59  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Peter D, really. At least as far as our position holds. I imagine Christians will argue the same...it's one of the consequences of being, well, different religions.

As for Christianity being avodah zarah, idolaters, where Christians are concerned, it's not a mainstream position. There are small, marginal Jewish groups in the depths of Williamsburg and Mea Shearim which consider everyone, including all other Jewish groups, strict Orthodox included, as idolaters too. So, no, it's not "very controversial"...it's a silly anomaly. Will you be devoting the next phase of this discussion looking for oddities, man-bites-dog stories and making up "controversies"? You and I've gone through that before.

12 August 2013 02:15  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Oh, and in you post to Hannah, Peter: Well then, by that definition, I'm a Jew but, sadly, a naughty and damned 'Avodah Zarah' for accepting Jesus as the Christ."

You can claim Right of Return under Israeli law but that, as Hannah, explained in another context, does not make you a Jew under Orthodox halakhah. And even if your mother, rather than your father had been Jewish, nut you were raised as Christian, you bear no responsibility whatsoever and it's assumed you will continue as you were with no one trying to convince otherwise. I may be wrong, but I think that as a "technical" Jew raised in a home of another religion, you would be required to undergo a conversion.

So, sorry, I can't think any way you might achieve the status of idolater you seem to be gunning for. Even if you started, let's say, praying to statues or pretending to drink and eat the blood of your God.

12 August 2013 02:35  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Carl, it's getting late for me and your questions are good, but make my head spin. One of the things to remember is that secularism, voluntary conversions and intermarriage, on a scale seen today are a novelty in Judaism and the culture, customs and laws have simply not worked many of the issues and consequences through.

Is there a specific animosity to conversion to Christianity? Yes. And to Islam too. A Jewish kid who goes off to India or Burma and comes back claiming to be a Hindu or a Buddhist will catch a hard time from friends, family or community for a being a fool, but not rejection and revulsion as he would if he were to become a Christian or Muslim. The reason for this is simple; for many centuries Jews underwent tremendous pressure under attempted forced conversions, with entire Jewish communities choosing death and martyrdom for themselves and their children rather then conversion. Our histories and prayer books record the destruction of hundreds of communities during pogroms, expulsions, inquisitions and passing Crusades. Similar nasty things occurred under Muslims, such as the Almohades. So, someone who voluntarily joins a former persecutor must be shunned in extremis for the system not to break down. Harsh realities result in harsh survival strategies.

12 August 2013 02:55  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

Thanks for the honesty. Logically that makes me your eternal persecutor according to something like blood guilt. Do you believe this?

carl

12 August 2013 03:02  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Ha ha! Excuse me? Eternal persecutor? Blood guilt? You? For insulting my love of schmaltz herring? Goodness, no. Foreign and savage Pagan concepts. Quite forbidden and very un-Jewish. In every generation, every instance, we are enjoined to make peace and continue the work of repairing and improving the world as partners in the ongoing process of Creation. The only examples of anything similar to eternal persecutors were the Amalek, the Philistines and other hostile tribes at the time of the wanderings in the Wilderness and the settlement of Eretz Israel, and that was under specific command by God at a specific time in our history which is over. God is loving and forgiving to all His children and grudges and revenge are grave sins against Him. Only He is the ultimate Judge. "The sins of the father" pertains to a warning about the unfortunate natural consequences to one's offspring if one commits wrongs, something we can see in the multi-generational misery of dysfunctional families, not an active divine punishment down the generations.

12 August 2013 03:49  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Avi...I am in the South Pacific at the moment so you will read this tomorrow.

Jews are our brothers ( Catholics ie)
We share the OT although we do not share some of it which we consider to be misinterpreted and mistranslated.With the coming of Jesus some Jews took the continuing path with its new concepts while the others stayed.

I understand why Jews do not wish to assimilate and keep Judaism in tact for the reasons you have given.What I do find extraordinary is how anyone else cannot understand that considering the circumstances.

Just to clear up the transubstantiation concept. Catholics do not believe they are chomping on bones and blood when they receive the Eucharist...that is too gross and too weird.The host is not a symbol of Christ. The living Christ in essence is present when consecrated. We call it a mystery of religion.This is a good example of how texts should not be interpreted literally. "This is my body this is my blood" was the only way the Gospel could ensure that everyone understood that the consecration of the host was never to be considered to be mere symbolism.

As much as it truly pains me I must admit I agree with the inspector on the story of Abraham and Isaac.I suspect a lot of the OT is allegorical and this is one of the tales.The portrayal of God as an abusive power crazed psycho
cannot be taken seriously.God of the OT and God of the NT is the same.There is one God.

Although as an 8 year old I did believe it and was convinced that my family could not possibly know about this terrible story so I kept from them because I thought they would be devastated and what would be worse my mother would remove me from my school( which I liked)

If there was a voice in regard to the Abrahan and Isaac story it was a demon voice in the head of Abraham.. God stepped in( Abraham had a sudden flash of reason) and saved Isaac which was the miracle because he normally does not do this as newspaper reports attest to when they are describing murders by schizophrenics who hear voices from God instructing them to kill their relatives.

12 August 2013 04:18  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

Let me push you a bit because I feel like I am close to learning something. Everything I am going to say assumes the context of your last post - that the son should not be charged for the sins of the father. Yet you say that one who joins a former persecutor will be reviled and rejected. There is no forced conversion today. Indeed the biggest threat to Judaism today is indifference and intermarriage. So for what would he be reviled and rejected except the sins of the father? And if he is to be reviled and rejected for becoming like me, how can I avoid the conclusion that I am likewise reviled and rejected for what I am?

The attitude only makes sense if you consider Christianity your perpetual enemy. The logic behind the attitude is a logic of betrayal - of collaborating with an adversary. I by virtue of membership must be an adversary holding to an inherently anti-Semitic religion. If this is all true then the revulsion makes sense. The logic is ironclad. How then do you break it?

carl

12 August 2013 04:33  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Wise words, Cressida. I will reread them tomorrow, as it's getting late for me. But quickly, no, I don't consider the Eucharist cannibalism. Having spent a year in a Catholic school in Vienna, I'm not a total stranger to the beliefs and culture. I was snipping at Peter D to show him how easy it is to take anything and twist it into something it is not...and because, well, because we're boys and we do stuff like this to each other.

Your interpretation of the Akedah is unique, the first such I've come across. Not sure it's officially "kosher" for me, but I like it. I see a bit of a problem with an entity acting independently and nastily against the Creator and would replace it with the yetzer hara, the Evil Inclination. The difference is, it's internal to us, not an outside force, and it's not entirely evil, as it's the powerful primordial drive which is responsible for our drive to like marry and have children, to acquire wealth and honour...all which can be debased as lust, greed and drive for power or which can be raised to holiness as well. Must reread, as I said and think on these.

All the best to you in Paradise, for now!

12 August 2013 04:50  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Push all you want, Carl, it's nearly midnight for me and my battery power down to 7% with nary a cord in sight and my wife just stirred, which means if I wake her, Im off to the doghouse...the couch. Await your turn tomorrow.

12 August 2013 04:53  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Peter D,

Well you could contact the Israeli embassy and put your claim in. But as for you being Jewish, in my book that would be a no, Avi has summed up the reasons why not, although of course there is nothing wrong with celebrating or enjoying your cultural-ethnic heritage.

Besides which, wouldn't that be fourth nationality, or are you no longer in communion with Dodo's?

12 August 2013 05:10  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Carl

In answer to the first part, I'd say that as you've pointed out previously Israel is not a recreation of the theocratic Kingdom/Roman Provinces/Protectorate of the ancient world.

It is a state that was founded by Jews, for Jews, but on a secular social democratic basis.

It should not surprise you that there is therefore a tension between secular and religious Jewry either in Israel or outside of it.

In respect of secular Judaism, I'd see this as being akin to the fact England is officially a Christian country (which an established Church to underline the point) and indeed if you look at baptism figures then that seems to be the case. Of course the reality is that even at Christmas only about 1-2 million people go to this established Church. But that doesn't mean that most English people don't hum the odd carol or have Christmas dinner. In other words the 'trappings' of that festival. I'd say that is secular Jewry in a nutshell- a desire to keep traditions and celebrate the major festivals (passover, yom kippur), not eat pork etc.

No different to what we see in England, with people wanting to get married in Church or have their children baptised (but never really attending said church).

12 August 2013 05:27  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Carl,

I think whilst there is no 'forced conversion' and generally Jews are free to practice our faith in the places we live, there is still a collective community memory of the various trials and tribulations that Avi has mentioned (some would say the final and ultimate act of all of this was the holocaust).

This may come across as a 'victim hood' complex and a little paranoid, but as another of my family said to me, our own family was uprooted from a place Jews had been living in and been relatively prosperous in, since Biblical times (3,000 years), but in the space of 20 years that had all disappeared. That started only 60 years ago. So that does make you think.

And secondly it is no different to the frenzy we'd have if I started wearing a 'I love Cromwell' t-shirt in the middle of Dublin or Belfast's shopping centres(let alone this blog)....

12 August 2013 05:52  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Carl,

"So for what would he be reviled and rejected except the sins of the father?"

As presumably it would be a choice of the person converting of his/her own free will, then I cannot see any sins of the father issues there.

If you are referring to children of someone who converted, then presumably they would be baptised into the Christian faith. If at adulthood they wanted to follow Judaism, then I'd guess they'd have to undergo conversion (depending on what form of Judaism they'd be wanting to explore).

"how can I avoid the conclusion that I am likewise reviled and rejected for what I am? "

I personally wouldn't shun or whatever, a Jewish to Christian convert. I think father's ripping their trousers is very Jazz Singer and old generation style way of doing these things. Personally I think engagement, discussion and argument is the way to deal with these matters, between our religions and in between them (and there is past form for this, as our Talmud is full of Rabbinical scholars arguing the toss over everything).

But, from a religious perspective, I can also reflect that in Judaism, our claim is that we, the most unworthy and crap nation, were chosen by G-d to receive his Torah, to the exclusion of other religions, to follow and to be a light to the other people's of the earth.

Which is why the community, in days gone by, might have gotten a bit peeved or feel a bit of rejection/revilement might be at hand, when one of the goes off and does their own thing. That and the fact that to be a Jew was, in many cases, to risk one's life (see above comments).

As for yourself, you are not a Jew and are therefore under no covenant or obligation to follow The Torah. Hence why you would not be 'reviled' or whatever for following Christianity.

12 August 2013 06:40  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Carl :

"It would seem there are Orthodox Jews and Buddhist Jews and atheist Jews and nominal Jews but no Christian Jews."

Yes and I'd add apparently no Chinese Jews either; a couple of weeks ago, I was eating with my friend Moshe in a Chinese restaurant in London.
"David," asked Moshe, "Are there any Jews in China?"
"I don't know," I replied. "Why don't you ask the waiter? I'd be surprised if there were no Jews in China. Our people are scattered everywhere."
When the waiter came by, Moshe asked, "Are there any Chinese Jews?"
"I don't know sir, let me ask," the waiter replied, and went back to the kitchen.
The waiter returned a few minutes later and said, "No, sir. No Chinese Jews."
"Are you sure?" Moshe asked.
"I ask everyone," the waiter replied. "We have orange Jews, prune Jews, tomato Jews and grape Jews, but no one ever hear of Chinese Jews!"

12 August 2013 13:59  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

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12 August 2013 15:00  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Cressida,

Thanks for that post, much, much sense in it. Enjoy your time in Pacific!

12 August 2013 15:02  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Carl,

For the record I don't consider Christianity to be a 'permanent enemy' and I doubt that Avi does either. I think Avi and Hannah have explained, in their own ways, the reasons and history of why the Jewish community would be wary of Jews converting to another religion, especially Christianity and Islam (in my case ,I'd freely admit my own blinkers, by saying Islam more than Christianity).

But, on the other hand,I do have a Christian side of my family and as you know the 2nd Mrs K is not a Jew by birth and therefore her family is 'christian' of sorts .

My step children, are are not considered to be Jewish and would have to convert to be considered Jewish, but it doesn't mean I shun them or think anything less of them. Nor do I really see them as threatening the faith of my Jewish children, by either marriage.

In fact I find a healthy debate is not only in line with the Talmud, but that it strengthens and refines our various beliefs- if done in the correct environment and boundaries.

So I don't really have an issue with Christians, except that of course being a Jew, I am not a Christian and do not adhere to the Christian interpretation of our written Torah (the old testament) , although to be fair I have read through the 'new' testament and have tried to make sense of it and recently tried to re-read it, in light of our discussions here.

From the micro to the macro, I can see the big gleams of light in what was perhaps our people's darkest hour, in the 1930s and 1940s, when many Christians did not stand in the shadows, but put their own faith and beliefs into action;the many Christian leaders who opposed Nazi Germany.

This is one less know example, from Austria :

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-14390524

Now a purist might say that a Rev shouldn't have been baptising Jews, for the sake of helping them live, (which is sadly what eventually happened here and the Church of England stopped him doing so in the end).

But was it not morally right for a Christian to do 'something', even at the risk of doing 'false' conversions, to help his fellow human beings, in such atrocious times? The answer to me is yes.

As for the question on 'breaking iron logic', my suggestion is dialogue and discussion. Perhaps one of the better outcomes of today's more enlightened day and age is that we are not seeking to burn each other at the stake or whatever.

I think we are inevitably going to disagree on the crux of Christianity- namely who Jesus was (the word was automatically implies that, as you'd say 'is')- but that does not mean that there are no areas of common ground between the two faiths.

One small crawl at a time...

12 August 2013 15:10  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

The logic behind the attitude is a logic of betrayal - of collaborating with an adversary. I by virtue of membership must be an adversary holding to an inherently anti-Semitic religion. If this is all true then the revulsion makes sense. The logic is ironclad. How then do you break it?

Carl, Christianity and Islam present a unique challenge to Jews and Judaism in that they in part emerged from it, were rejected by it and seek to disqualify, discredit and end it theologically...and all too often physically. Does this make Christianity and Islam "inherently antisemitic"? I honestly don't know, I'm neither Christian nor Muslim; what do you say?.

Jewish law makes no distinction between apostasy to Christianity and, say, to Buddhism. Both are, for the Jew alone, acts of idolatry. On a historical, cultural and psychological level, though, the common human reaction to joining a proselytizing religion which has sought to end Judaism is a bigger deal than joining one which is tolerant of other religions and friendly to or at least indifferent to Jews and Judaism. Historically, interactions with Jews and Muslims have been risky affairs and the pressure to reduce contact and with it opportunities for conflict is great.

Now, your "iron-clad" logic leads you to the conclusion that "if we have been such arseholes, those people must surely hate us as their eternal enemies and want our blood." I laughed at such "logic" before because it is such a foreign, primitive and utterly pagan concept, one which would make sense to an honour and revenge-obsessed Samurai or a Germanic chieftain, one I imagine some Christians have of us as these biblical era fanatics uttering thees and thous as we go about chopping heads off Goyim and stoning people who lit up a smoke on the Sabbath.

How do I break your logic, or explain its faults? The answer is simple as it is potentially insulting: We do not collectively nor individually assign enemy status to anyone, nor do we seek revenge on anyone because...because we are better than all of you. We are better not because of genes or special status, but only because we are burdened with carrying out God's commandments, to honour the Torah, and adhere to God's laws, instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves and to improve the world and usher in the coming of the Messiah. Flashes of anger notwithstanding, an overview of our history and literature will show you that we have faithfully and overwhelmingly adhered to these demands even in the worst of times. The survivors of the Crusader massacres, the expulsions, pogroms and the death camps continued to thank the Creator and to bless His Creation in their daily prayers. And when the dust settled, they rebuild their lives and opened their hearts and arms in friendship and brotherhood...because they had no other alternative. History and our literature records this. It doesn't mean all Jews are saints and that there is no anger or hatred in our midst or individual hearts, but it does mean, as the past and present behavior of our community attests, that Jews and Judaism as a whole operate under strict restrictions and demanding expectations and whether they may feel like it or not at any given time, are required to forgive, to mend, to improve and to befriend, just as they are required to pray thrice daily, bless their meals and honour the Sabbath. It ain't just us...it's what God wants of us. And if you are asking me about my position, I would imagine my loitering on a Christian website, my interactions with you and others, my marriage to a former Christian and my relationship with her culture and family, my philosophies and ramblings, all this, would have given you the answer already.

12 August 2013 17:34  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Avi,

Well said, if the 'fake Jew troll' (according to some) may say such things...

12 August 2013 17:47  
Blogger Luther said...

Delightful to see how many comments an article on sin brings out!

The article has some good points. Sin is whatever we do which is contrary to God's law. And if we have not accepted Christ as our sole Saviour then even one such law-breach (sin) condemns us to an eternity parted from God. People don't need 'not to sin', they need 'to submit to Christ'.

12 August 2013 21:54  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi
"Is there a specific animosity to conversion to Christianity? Yes.", leading to: "rejection and revulsion".
And so, "someone who voluntarily joins a former persecutor must be shunned in extremis" as its a "harsh survival strategy(y)".

Right, that explains the extreme comments on Christianity in the Babylon Talmud (that resulted in them being so heavily censored in the Middle Ages). Not much organised persecution by Christians then. Jews were being converted by the early Church in Greece and Rome.

Some time ago you said this shunning no longer applied when I described my father's experiences. You're now saying it does and, worse, necessarily so?

Or am I misunderstanding?

12 August 2013 22:35  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Peter D,

'that resulted in them being so heavily censored in the Middle Ages'

Then :

'Not much organised persecution by Christians then'

So to put a book on trial isn't religious persecution then?

I'll have to remind you of that, next time you complain of Christian persecution for, say, some one wearing something like a cross...

12 August 2013 23:44  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

PS-

Peter D,

The Jew Internet troll wonders if you would like to quote extensively from the learned works of Justinas Pranaitis and his work 'Talmud Unmasked'. An absolute must, if I may say...

12 August 2013 23:48  
Blogger Peter D said...

David K

I'm being serious and not, I hope, anti-semitic.

The early tension between Christians and Jews resulted in some pretty nasty stuff being written on both sides. I don't make it a practice to read the odd passage from the Talmud and Mishnah out of historical context but it is a fact the Babylonian Talmud was severely censored by Christians in the Middle Ages because of its inflammatory nature and because of some its fierce rants against Christians and Christ. Do you deny this?

That was then and this is now. Christians said some awful things about Jews too. I'm asking about the present view towards those Jews who convert to Christianity. And remember my father was told he was dead to his family when he converted. All contact with his family terminated. I was informed the situation was different today. From what Avi has now said it seems not.

And yes, I confess, its personal. I witnessed the impact on my father, a stoical and wise man, who was shunned and never said a hostile word against Jews or Judaism - other than the faith of his fathers was "misguided for reasons known only to God".

13 August 2013 00:45  
Blogger Ivan said...



Hebrews are the only people to have suffered in history. A few thousand, sometimes hundred fellows get taken out by the Amelekites or Assyrians or Egyptians or Greeks or Crusaders and it is recorded, and meditated and warmed over with a larding of midrash for millennia. What they in turn did to others is a result of divine sanction, reaction to anti%semitism, and the dire necessity of circumstances beyond their control. Pretty neat trick that gets a lot of mileage with brain-dead Christian Zionists.

13 August 2013 01:15  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi said ...

Amongst other things:

We do not collectively nor individually assign enemy status to anyone, nor do we seek revenge on anyone because...because we are better than all of you. We are better not because of genes or special status, (you are/were the 'Chosen race') but only because we are burdened with carrying out God's commandments, to honour the Torah, and adhere to God's laws, instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves and to improve the world and usher in the coming of the Messiah.

A bold set of claims!

So, just who is your neighbour Avi? How are you improving the world? And what's your version of the Christian 'Golden Rule'?

Amongst other 'snippets', I was raised to believe the Jewish people have failed to grasp the understanding of the nature of evil in this world (for you its an internal rather than an external force) and the true role of the Messiah (an earthly kingdom rather than a spiritual one).

Really we're theologically miles apart.

13 August 2013 02:32  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Ah, greetings, David! Fancy meeting you up here. Rather stormy tonight...the birds are screeching and flapping about. I think I'll turn in for the night. Maybe I'll curl up with that Justinas Pranaitis delight you recommend just to see what the squawking is about.

Cheers....

13 August 2013 02:46  
Blogger Ros V said...

Lucy Worsley is not much good. Watch David Starkey instead.

13 August 2013 08:46  
Blogger Ros V said...

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13 August 2013 08:48  
Blogger Ros V said...

@ Dan joe wonders
"why so many Christians focus on the 'sins' of non-Christians, individually or as a society,"..yes it's a mystery isn't it?
I suppose they should just sit back and let society be destroyed by crime, degeneracy and warped ideology. Who cares?

13 August 2013 08:49  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Peter D,

I wasn't suggesting you were being anti-semitic. No I don't deny that Christian Europe put 'the Talmud' on trial, as it is a historical fact.

I say the reason for that was bigotry pure and simple. The Gospel of John is replete with 'the jews this and the jews that', later used as the excuse for... well jew hate.

Although I wouldn't actually advocate banning John. Neither would I advocate (as some parts of Europe have) banning 'my struggle' by the Austrian painter. Better to read books than burn them.

As to the Talmud itself and the apparent 'anti-christian' passages it contains, I'd simply note, that as with (SEE THREAD ABOVE) Dawkins much of the discussions of the Rabbis are Polemical in nature, hence the fierce language and don't forget the Talmud's composition was during a time of upheaval for Jews, although it hasn't stopped numerous anti-semites from using it as a justification for the appeal to base instinct -pogroms and the rest.

But as you say that was then and this is now (tell that to a few of your Christian colleagues, viz the Reformation).

As for your father, well on a personal level I am sorry for that. I think that several people have tried to explain the issues surrounding Jewish to Christian conversion, but that seems to have fallen of deaf ears. I'd also say it depends on the congregation and the community involved (some of the more 'ultra orthodox' in my own community don't like me for being, well, not orthodox enough), but to me I'd agree with Hannah. Dialogue and discussion is better than bitterness and cutting people off.

Personally,if it were one of my Jewish relatives, I'd happily argue with them, help them consider things, but if that was what they really wanted to do... then that is their choice. They'd still be my son/daughter/brother/sister etc.

13 August 2013 18:22  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

PS - Evil/Golden rule to Avi.

This is my Shillings worth

It depends upon which school you follow. The Kabalah (and Jewish folk law, that you seem to have such a problem with goes into great detail about evil, demons (we have several) etc.

Don't forget that you complained out 'contradictory Mishnah', well they are discussions on the Torah, so that is no surprise there. I think if you gather 1,000,000 Catholic sermons over 2,000 years, one could pick holes in them all.

As for the golden rule :

"You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the L-RD"

—Leviticus 19:18

"The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the L-RD am your G-d."
—Leviticus 19:34

Rabbi Hillel, in summing up the Torah:
"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn it."

—Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

And being a British Jew, I find this quite good as well:

"At present I content myself with pointing out that in English law there must be, and is, some general conception of relations giving rise to a duty of care, of which the particular cases found in the books are but instances. The liability for negligence, whether you style it such or treat it as in other systems as a species of "culpa," is no doubt based upon a general public sentiment of moral wrongdoing for which the offender must pay. But acts or omissions which any moral code would censure cannot, in a practical world, be treated so as to give a right to every person injured by them to demand relief. In this way rules of law arise which limit the range of complainants and the extent of their remedy. The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer's question, Who is my neighbour? receives a restricted reply. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be – persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question."

Lord Atkin,Donoghue v Stevenson [1932]

13 August 2013 18:22  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Avi,

Glad to see you are still posting and around...

I am feeling envious of you with the smalz herring and whiskey. But don't bother reading that book. Unless you want to have a good belly laugh.

13 August 2013 18:24  
Blogger Peter D said...

David

We are not in disagreement about the historical passages in the Mishnah or the wide variety of interpretations it contains. Its part of the reason Jews trained in the Torah have nibble minds and a wry sense of humour.

I would question the Gospel of John being anti-Semitic though!

I know who my Jewish cousins are, funnily enough, though they wont know of the existence of my family. Don't worry, you're family is safe! So is yours Avi.

I am proud to be a 'Roman Catholic Jew' - all the very best Jews are, don't you know - and may just apply for Jewish nationality on this basis - if I can get my very wealthy Jewish relatives to fund any appeal.

13 August 2013 19:07  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

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13 August 2013 21:25  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Peter D,

Ah, the Mishnah and Midrash are different publications (so to speak). I think you specifically referred to Midrash in the earlier discussion with Avi. Midrash are the learned works of Rabbis and scholars throughout the ages, both before and after the Talmud.

To my mind your earlier criticism of 'contradictory texts' , is in itself no different to asking for a fixed viewpoint on Christianity if your references are Martin Luther, The Current Pope, Nicky Gumble and Ian Paisley. Personally I don't have a problem with different viewpoints.

Regards to the Gospel of John, I didn't say it was anti-semitic, but rather the interpretation of later Christians could interpret that as a 'reason' for ganging up on Jews-although it is clear to me in John's Gospel 'the Jews' are the villains of the writing, no surprise given that was written years after the events- 'you are of your father, the devil' etc.

No different to Matthew's Gospel of 'let his blood be on our hands and our other generations'; a passage which was later taken to mean ALL Jews were Christ killers (despite the fact it was a pagan Roman who killed Jesus) and so on and so forth.

I wasn't on the side of Jews who protested against Mel Gibson's film, when he included that passage.

In respect to your cousins, I wish you well in any family contact.

I am glad you are proud of your Jewish heritage as well.

G-d bless.

PS- Please direct prayers at the current Arab-Israeli peace talks...

13 August 2013 21:29  
Blogger Peter D said...

David K
Don't go confusing me with the
Torah, the Talmud, Mishnah and Midrash. My father tried to drum it all into me as a child and I only 'got' it in later life!

From a Christian perceptive, the danger of not understanding the full Bible - what Christians call the Old and New Testaments - is that verses in isolation do not give the full picture. There's also a need for an authentic interpretation. Our brains just can't handle thousands of different 'authentic' understandings.

What I will say is that among Christ's last words on the Cross are: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." This was for all of us but also specific to the Crucifixion. If any knew Him to be the Messiah and maliciously crucified Him, well, we wont dwell on the consequences. How could anyone knowing do such a thing? Another area I got into a lot of bother over at school.

My take on all this is that in demanding His Crucifixion by Rome, the Jewish authorities (?) and many/all (?) of the Jews did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. They rejected the prophecies concerning Him and didn't understand the evil they were committing in putting Him to death.

The question marks represents the different views and I believe account for the varying levels of hate down the 2000 years. Whether they should have known is a different question altogether.

Oh, and I omitted my full credentials. I am a proud to be an Irish Roman Catholic Jew.

I shall pray for peace in the Holy Land.

13 August 2013 23:51  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

.I have enjoyed this discussion between Avi David and Peter.

Just a few thoughts from a gentile fly on the wall in Jewry for a number of years.

I think a problem is that there are expectations that Jews should behave like Christians .They are not Christians in thought or practice.This was a mistake I made and came to realise that Catholics and Jews are poles apart.

I thought that religion was merely an incidental and that people from a similar social strata and educational background were basically the same.I came to learn that this is not correct.

Jews do not accept the New Testament which is the heart of Christianity.
As far as I know ( as my ex used to remind me) Jews are not required to turn the other cheek or love their neighbours as they love themselves. They are supposed to look after their own, prosper thrive and more particularly survive.They are exclusive and are not welcoming of blow ins or would be Jews and quite frankly I understand respect and have a certain admiration for their stance.Even though this is in the strictest sense a non Christian attitude on my part.
Strangely enough I earned more respect from Jews by not converting particularly by our local Rabbi than those gentile wives who do as a matter of course just to make the situation easier rather than with any real religious conviction.

Jews know from the outset the consequences of apostasy. It even makes me a Catholic blanche when someone is considering it...it is very serious! Having witnessed the consequences I have always discouraged it.This does not just apply to Orthodox Jews..It is to liberal Jews as well.

So as much as I love Jews and enjoy the rapport with them that I rarely share with any other people I am afraid it is a case of oil and water .Judaism and Catholicism..two very defined religions from the same family tree..are brothers that are chalk and cheese.They love each other,share things in common but can never live together.



14 August 2013 08:57  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Cressida,

I thought you'd written a 'gentle fly on the wall'...

If I may give a complement out here, I think your sincerity and belief is firmly towards Christianity and full respect for you not going away from that, even when you had a Jewish husband and I would guess that is the reason for the respect from your Rabbi.

Mrs K,is a convert and to my mind a great Jew, though it did take time (learning Hebrew for starters & you are right our community doesn't like, for various good reasons, 'would be Jews'), but she didn't really have a specific faith to convert from, other than perhaps a vague link to Welsh nonconformist Christianity (although she does drink).

14 August 2013 13:31  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Peter D,

Personally, during the times I have read the new testament, I've always taken the passages as showing the readers the gravity of what was going on in the cruxifiction (that is on its own merits as a narrative).

I think a mob or a crowd can say all sorts of things, especially when whipped up to a frenzy.

I would have to go back to read them, but I always thought it was the Romans who put Jesus to death, not Jews.

Although why a Roman governor washes his hands over one Jewish prisoner, when thousands were crucified all the time is another glitch in the narrative- I'm guessing that was put in to make the Romans, to whom Paul was trying to convert, look good.

I think the authorities wanted him for blasphemy, but the Romans were the ones who controlled the death penalty. Wasn't Jesus killed under Roman law as an insurrectionist?

I'm guessing this is what the writers of the gospels had in mind, but the point I was making was the 'spin' on these passages throughout the ages as the excuse or justifications of other mobs to kill/hurt/riot against Jews.

Incidentally, I was told by a Christian friend to read Matthew, because it is apparently 'very Jewish'.

I read it and thought, no,it is a tick box exercise from the 'old Testament' and an attempt to show how this prediction and that prediction was coming true.

I found Mark's gospel much more Jewish, given its polemical, lively, dashing and going from one topic to the next (and it is short/to the point).

In John's gospel, I think the author is deliberately using 'the Jews' as a foil to compare and contrast Jesus with his fellows, but alas the highly passionate polemical language allowed later mobs to distort that into a general reason not to like Jews.

As for the gospel of Thomas, well that is more Bhuddist than Jewish. Which is probably why it never got into the official version.

I also got into trouble with some Christian friends, by asking why the gospels never mention Jesus's wife. I was convinced that he was married (from the viewpoint of my own culture I guess)and had to re-read the text several times to note he wasn't married.

Or the bit about his mother being a virgin after Jesus was born; that is something that doesn't seem quite right and I am sure that one of the gospels mentions Jesus had brothers (and sisters?).

14 August 2013 13:48  
Blogger Peter D said...

David B

Yes, David. All the above has been discussed before.

I will clarify a couple of things. The individual Gospels tell the story of Jesus from different perspectives. John is widely regarded as the fullest and highest presentation of theology

The Bible clearly describes Pilate executing Christ under pressure from the Jewish leaders who wanted him gone. According to my faith, Mary remained a life-long virgin and the references to Jesus' brother (no sisters) is to other relatives who cared for her and Jesus after Joseph, her husband died.

Jesus did quite a few 'counter-cultural' things.

14 August 2013 20:11  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Peter D,

You've got your Davids mixed up it seems... lol!

14 August 2013 21:51  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

It's a proper choice you made, Miss Cressida; a Jewish conversion should only be done out of full, unreserved conviction. I was fortunate in that my wife had already converted through an Orthodox beit din on her own and met her less than a year after her conversion. She and several friends came to our synagogue, having already spread the word that they are not there to waste time on idle chatter but to hunt down husbands. I didn't know that at the time, as guys don't discuss such matters at the scotch and herring table scrum and was unaware that I had been selected. We went on four dates before engagement...always properly dressed and in decent (expensive) lounges, never held hands and not even the gentlemanly peck on the cheek was allowed. I was kinda-sorta observant at the time (didn't eat pork in public), in a political-nationalist sort of way being from a very secular family and so I thought the whole thing a bit crazy, another exotic date to talk about later, but it worked I guess. I had no chance; I was madly, feverishly and insanely in love with my future wife mid-ways through our second date...and still am. The steel bars clanged down after the wedding and I was put on the straight and narrow about proper kashrut, Shabbat, prayer and study as only a Scotswoman, a former officer on a Canadian frigate and a daughter of a strict Presbyterian mother and a lay Anglican minister can. No adjustment period for my feelings and deep thoughts, nor long philosophical discourses. No "make religion relevant" or "capture my imagination" tomfoolery; either I comply with the new regime or she packs her bags. That worked too.

I'm surprised, though that you found that folks on the road of conversion are treated poorly; in the Orthodox communities here and the US they are welcome quite warmly. Must be some kind of a European thing, I suppose.

14 August 2013 23:29  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Peter B,

Yes, I guess it is all been seen & done before, I thought I'd just share a few of my musings so to speak.

14 August 2013 23:49  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Avi,

Thanks for sharing that.

I've had the privilege of being married to 2 Mrs K's, the first was a Russian Jew, who I lost a couple of years back to the big C.

But thanks to my sister (the gay one), I went from being a widower to being happy again with Mrs K, 2, as I kinda call her. Not that I'd make an association with Mrs K and Everest...

re converts- I've found that it is the 'secular' Jews who have more of a problem there, than the Orthodox community.

14 August 2013 23:58  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Peter D,

Sorry, can't help myself here. So in the name of ecumenical dialogue, I am curious as to the bit about Mary being a virgin for her whole life, as that is one of the 101's of Christian faith I find, well, strange.

Why was it so wrong or heretical to think she had 'natural' children after Jesus with Joseph. You do claim they were Jewish, so I can't see why the holy couple wouldn't/couldn't have... well made love and produced children?

I guess there is a reason, but I am not sure why Mary and her husband wouldn't have lived a full sexual relationship... (to my mind anyway).

15 August 2013 00:11  
Blogger Peter D said...

David K
I wouldn't trouble your mind over it. Some modern day protestants ask the same questions. You have to accept Mary was the Mother of the Christ - God incarnate - to appreciate the theology.

By the fourth century the doctrine was widely supported by the Church Fathers, and by the seventh century it had been affirmed in a number of ecumenical councils. You could research them if you want a thorough understanding.

The doctrine is part of the teaching of Catholicism, Anglo-Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy. Mary is referred to as "ever virgin". Some early protestants, such as Martin Luther, supported the doctrine, as well as Hugh Latimer and our host's 'hero' Thomas Cranmer.

It's to do with God's plan of salvation, you see. As of the fourth century, in discussing this, a parallel theme began to appear in which Mary's obedience and the doctrine of perpetual virginity were counter-positioned against Adam and Eve, just as Jesus' obedience was counter positioned against that of Adam.

The concept of Mary as the Second Eve was first introduced by Justin Martyr around 155 AD. In this perspective, which was discussed in detail by Irenaeus, supported by Jerome, the vow of obedience and virginity of Mary positioned her as the "Second Eve" as part of the plan of salvation, just as Jesus was positioned as the Second Adam. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin (to some degree), and Jon Wesley all accepted the teaching.

It's all to do with detachment from earthly pleasures and preoccupations. A total dedication, body, mind and heart, to God and His plan of salvation. Jesus was a virgin and so too was Mary.

What's so difficult to grasp once you accept Jesus was the Christ, God incarnate?

15 August 2013 00:59  

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