Doubts

Discussion in 'The Commons' started by seagull, Aug 24, 2013.

  1. Peregine

    Peregine New Member

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    I wouldn't doubt of things that I cannot possibly give serious foundation to. Is God triune? Is Jesus Christ consubstantial with the Father?

    How can I say "no" these things? If I decide I don't believe in any, how could I give a foundation to my denial? Seriously, I can test the boiling point of water, the direction a pebble falls, or the speed the moon changes its phases. But the nature of the Trinity? How can one even fathom the nature of the Trinity to give a novel judgment about it!
     
  2. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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  3. seagull

    seagull Active Member

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    It certainly gets good reviews, so I'll try it.

    Oddly enough I've never warmed to Lewis, although it's interesting that the RCs seem to approve of his works. Perhaps it's significant that I'm a great fan of Betjeman, with whom CS Lewis shared a hearty mutual dislike.
     
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  4. Peregine

    Peregine New Member

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    Peteprint,
    I'm looking for a copy, since it is such a celebrated work.
    But maybe you didn't understand me. What I was trying to say was I cannot fathom the nature of God enough to ever give a verdict, an "expert opinion" on His true nature. I do not sympathize with metaphysical theological disputes. For example, take the controversy between Lutherans and Catholics on transubstantion/consubstantiation. What alchemical laboratory can one go to determine which is true? None.Perhaps one should simply take Christ's word, when he says, "Take this, for it is my body". Somehow, the bread has the status of his mystical flesh and blood as sacrifice for the sins of the world. That is all I know. That is all I care.

    That is why I do not doubt the Creed. If the Lord or his Angel comes to me and says "Heaven awaits you", who am I to say, "No, I don't think so". Based on what?

    That is what I mean.
     
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  5. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Peregine,

    Yes, I did misunderstand what you were saying. Sorry about that. :)
     
  6. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    I find Lewis often quite tendentious, but the Screwtape letters are wickedly brilliant.

    I suppose I'd be labelled as being a man of more doubt than faith, but I'm not sure the two are so far apart. Is to have faith in something to accept some sort of proposition, or is it to commit to something, stake out an allegiance?

    In my experience doubt is the product of challenges and things that cannot be accommodated by one's worldview, it's an opportunity to grow and understand a little more...certainty by contrast, seems to breed complacency and resorting to a sort of unthinking 'parrot wisdom'.

    Though when it comes to religious language specifically, what exactly is the distinction between faith and doubt? I've met people who believe in the healing power of prayer, but never one that ever advises people not to go to the hospital when sick. Nor, in common with Richard Dawkins, have I ever met anyone who's had a limb grow back after prayer. There seems to be this kind of tension in religious thought where many things are simultaneously affirmed and denied, does reality really match up exactly to the words, or is the picture presented by religions more of a symbol and signpost to a something-or-other that goes deeper than human imagery?
     
  7. Peregine

    Peregine New Member

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    IMHO, doubt means you think. It is not a sign of weakness, at least in the intellectual area. It is interesting, precisely because it is difficult, to interpret what Christ meant with his references to prayer. Obviously he was saying and the writer writing, to a public who could easily test prayer on their own and see that mountains don't literally move and surgeries don't get magically performed. So, what did he mean? I believe it took nearly two millennia to understand, but I think the New Thought folks in America got it right: the power of belief, and the power of communicating with God and slowly becoming synchronized with what is "Christlike". Remember, the same personage that spoke of prayer that way in the same text is the one who got crucified while being perfectly capable of zapping himself away from His captors−easily (or via more mundane means).

    So, ask yourself, AlcibĂ­ades, what exactly did Christ mean?
     
  8. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    may i humbly submit that, in the words of Dr. Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Just because something is difficult to believe in the literal sense does not necessitate the adoption of a metaphorical meaning for it. Believing hard things seems the point of faith. Martin Luther said that, for Christians, our reason is held captive by the word of God.
     
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  9. seagull

    seagull Active Member

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    It's a pleasure to have you here, Alcibiades.

    I'm very wary of the thesis, "either you have faith or you don't" and/or "either your a believer or you're not". It's not that simple. Yes, there are people who claim to believe everything in the Bible and the Creeds, and others who absolutely deny the existence of God (though I don't think Dr Dawkins himself goes that far). But most of us are somewhere in between. My Doubter's Creed irritates both Atheists and Fundamentalists, but at least I'm trying to be honest.

    I've mentioned Ian Hislop, "an atheist with doubts". I also have a friend who goes to church (as a chorister: she has a good voice), and says it's "more in hope than faith". Well, at least that's a start! Another friend believes that there is probably a Supreme Being (God) and that through Him, Jesus Christ had a mission to spread the Word. And that the Holy Spirit is this Supreme Being's presence here on earth. She occasionally attends our church but does not take communion.

    Ah well, by those standards, my Doubter's Creed is positively orthodox!
     
  10. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    I will grant that a cigar can be a cigar, but I may respond that 'ceci n'est pas une pipe'! Imagery is treacherous!

    The same applies to language. Non-literal language is a bedrock of human communication- in the debate over Syria we've had our Parliament devide into 'hawks' and 'doves' which of course is about whether they are for or against war, rather than suggesting our parliament is, in fact, an aviary (although the cacophony at PMQs may sometimes give that impression).

    With Religious language, I think this becomes even more pronounced. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed (in that in origins it is small but will grow) but it is not actually a mustard seed. Nor in fact is it exactly like any 'Kingdom' that we have known through history (or at least one would hope so). Similarly I suppose with that line in that Nicene Creed, 'he sitteth on the right hand of the Father' presumably you don't actually believe that God has a right hand with a little man sitting on it up above the sky somewhere. (Or perhaps you do? I do not wish to presume).

    Please don't assume I am mocking you, I am merely curious, for you see, just as the labels 'hawk' and 'dove' colourfully convey something true about our MPs, does perhaps talk of seeds and kingdoms and hands tell us something that might be nonetheless accurate without actually having a concrete, literal object of reference?

    Which seems to me at least to be quite similar to Peregine's ruminations upon prayer. Mountains do not move, perhaps it's because nobody has ever had enough faith to do it, which would be a literalistic answer, but perhaps prayer is truly meant to mean something different to growing limbs and causing geological disasters at the drop of a hat. I do like the idea of this becoming more assimilated into Christ as the object of prayer...but Christians still pray for other things to happen do they not? For peace in the world, comfort for the bereaved, wisdom for leaders etc. Many good and worthy things to ask, but if prayer is only about an individual becoming more christlike...does that mean that asking for these things is irrelevant except to show that your heart is in the right place?

    I do have a lot of sympathy for honest doubt seagull, especially given the enormous variations of opinion from person to person, and I wish you well in your quest for truth. I particularly like that quote of Ian Hislop...something quite powerful and yet humble about it, I think.
     
  11. seagull

    seagull Active Member

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    Thanks, Alcibiades. But I'm not sure I have a "quest for truth". Perhaps it's because I'm 68 and feel that, "I've gone about as far as I can go". But that could be construed as an odd statement since many people turn more closely to God in their declining years.

    You see, rightly or wrongly, I feel content in my easy-going, liberal catholic CofE way. One atheist who still lurks in other forums, boasts that becoming a Humanist "freed (her) from guilt". Goodness me! Being CofE doesn't make me feel guilty. Au contraire. In my thirty five years as a relatively happy agnostic, I quite missed the old place and I'm glad to be back. Neither humanism, nor creationism, nor Rome offer any great attractions.
     
  12. Jeff F

    Jeff F Well-Known Member

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    In my observation the allegory trump card is used by people still in bondage to their own sin who desperately seek justification, and their Priests who tickle their ears.

    Jeff
     
  13. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Kudos for saying this.
     
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  14. seagull

    seagull Active Member

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    To the best of my knowledge this does not apply to the members of my local church, all of whom seem to be evolutionist.

    I have never had my ears, or anything else, tickled by a priest, male or female.

    Our "observations" seem to differ.

    I've heard people say that they were "in bondage to their own sin" (or words to that effect) until they became Humanist, RC, Pentecostalist, etc. Can we now add Creationist to that list? I'd recommend Anglicanism, myself.
     
  15. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Seagull, do you see creationism and Anglicanism as mutually exclusive? If so, why?
     
  16. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    Forgive me if I am sounding ignorant here, but does not Jesus himself occasionally recourse to allegory? If I'm not mistaken the parable of the sower where it is later explained that everything is a symbol of something else (seeds= 'the word', rocky ground= those who 'fall away' under persecution, thorns= cares of the world and so on).

    When I looked this up in Mark, I also note with interest that Jesus actually says that parables are there to disguise the truth from those who do not 'given the secret of the Kingdom of God' which is, to say, that to take these things 'literally' would be to entirely misunderstand them.

    Are we not perhaps being hasty in trying to make everything a black/white, literal/metaphorical matter? Is there not room for both?
     
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  17. Jeff F

    Jeff F Well-Known Member

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    To seagull and Alcibiades, certainly scripture does contain poetry and/or allegory, but it's use is obvious and well defined when used by Jesus as a teaching tool, but to blindly apply this to entire portions or books of the Old Testament is reckless. I can only address the motives for this I've seen in the ECUSA over the last 30 years, and not in the CoE or any other splinter group. Liberal theologians in the Episcopal church and seminaries have a dedicated and well thought out plan to destroy the authority of scripture, and see the creation account as the cornerstone to attack. Literal equates to fact, whereas allegory lends itself to interpretation, something they need for gay marriage, homosexuality, assisted suicide, and a host of other sins. Just as a crooked defense attorney attacks the credibility of a victim/witness, they attack the credibility of scripture, and the end result is a myriad of Priests who deny the virgin birth, literal resurrection and ascension, the deity of Christ, and the moral code clearly taught in scripture. Oddly enough, I've never seen the allegory trump card used on the creeds or the 39 articles.......why?:think:

    Jeff
     
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  18. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Oh course he does. But let's put it this way: Jesus himself can't be an allegory, in order to have recourse to allegories. Empty air that has no object isn't able to cast a shadow.

    Thus we are able to say that the underlying reality of the Bible must be real, factual, and physical, in order for allegories to have any meaning to us.
     
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  19. seagull

    seagull Active Member

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    No. Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism permit beliefs in either. All I am saying, again and again, is that in England the vast majority of Anglicans and RCs believe in evolution, not creationism. I have never met a creationist, let alone an Anglican one, except on line.
     
  20. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    At a guess, I suppose the point of the creed or the articles is to 'fix' and 'define' terms. The bible meanwhile is full of stories, puzzling sayings, poetry, proverbs, prophecy, ethics, visions...very little is discursive and straightforward. Also, with a gap of near two millennia since the NT at the least doesn't so much 'require' interpretation as demand it if a religious community is going to say it applies to diverse things like stem cell research, nuclear weapons, global climate change, capitalist economic structures...none of which are dealt with directly by any writer in the Bible.

    Yet even the creeds have a certain amount of non-literal content- I have already asked (to, so far, a telling silence) as to whether God has an actual right hand on which a little Jesus sits, but the Nicene creed even, I think, re-interprets the word 'Father' so that it does not possess the property of temporal priority (something that is true of all other kinds of Father), and it also seems to be at pains to suggest that although the Son is begotten of the Father, this shouldn't be understood as hierarchical (although that's an enormous temptation surely, since the Son cannot, and according to the creed, does not, beget the Father)

    But it is this phrase that I find interesting:
    Do you understand this as a deliberate and pre-meditated thing? As if they were simply lounging in their pews thinking 'As a Christian, I really want to completely void the bible...but how?'

    Is it impossible that these responses are being done in good faith? As a sincere (though I'm sure you think misguided) endeavour to articulate a pre-modern religion in a modern world?

    I'm just finding it hard to believe that, although they find certain scriptural passages inconvenient (and don't we all? The divorce passages seem to be widely ignored in this country I note), they actually want to jettison it in toto, which seems terribly counter-intuitive.