Sunday, October 09, 2005

Must.... write... paper!!!

But first, a blog post. "Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'." Yeah yeah, goofy atheist misrepresenting a sloppy sociology experiment. Here's what I just posted in the Megatokyo forums:

"On one hand, the story is irrelevant from a strictly Christian perspective; if the Gospel is true, then to heck with whatever correlates with belief in it. Nobody ever found faith by examining which religion decreased murder rates or increased the nation's GDP.

On the other hand, this sort of schlock shouldn't be simply ignored. Bad for evangelizing all you agnostic types. :) It couldn't possibly be scientific in the strict sense of the word, because you would need a scientific definition of "religion," which either doesn't exist, or else it corresponds so little to the complex reality that it has no meaning.

Here's the crux: Psychology and sociology are sciences only insofar as they measure predictable human behavior. Yet Christianity, in all of its tradition, demands growing in freedom through the rule of reason over the passions--the things that make humanity most predictable and ridiculous. Moreover, this reason (unlike rationalistic 19th century 'reason') is centered and organized by an extra-worldly revelation from an Ultimate Ungraspable Beyond--placing the Christian behavior even further outside the scope of science. If the "scientist of Christianity" presupposed a closed natural system, in principle fully explanable by finite laws (as he should), he would be limited to operating with a Durkheimian parody of Christianity--but not Christianity itself.

If there were actually a real correlation between lived Christian faith and violent crime, vs. 'peaceful' Western irreligion, I would attribute it to that Christians are actually struggling against the division between good and evil that runs in their hearts--and this is a violent struggle. If the agnostics are peaceful and passive, one may just as freely see it as a "going quietly into the night" of a dying world of temporary pleasures, rather than the success of a secularized Ghandi-esque ethic of peace."

Blast from the past - Oct. 9th, 2004

Why were people forbidden from reading the Bible in the 16th century?

"Here's the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Scripture--if you go to "VI. ATTITUDE OF THE CHURCH TOWARDS THE READING OF THE BIBLE IN THE VERNACULAR", you'll see a concise history of the issue.

The overriding concern of every single decree that limited private ownership or vernacular translation of the Bible was that of erroneous interpretations. This would have been especially true after Protestantism asserted that individuals could interpret Scripture without error through the Holy Spirit, even apart from the Church, contrary to the early Fathers, even contrary to the people interpreting scriptures around them. (Incidentally, wasn't part of Joseph Smith's first prayer an expression of disgust with the sheer number of Christian churches?)

Now I understand that the LDS and some forms of Protestantism believe that mainstream Christianity went to shit almost the moment the last of the Twelve apostles died--so, there's no way I'm going to be able to address that point here. But for the Catholic Church, fidelity to the Fathers, like Irenaeus, Augustine, Justin Martyr, etc.--was fidelity to the Scriptures.

That's why you see in the article, "Benedict XIV required that the vernacular version read by laymen should be either approved by the Holy See or provided with notes taken from the writings of the Fathers or of learned and pious authors."

I mean, if you don't think erroneous interpretations are possible, or that they just don't matter and the hierarchy just had a bug up its ass--just look at the situation today. People who don't know anything, just pick up a Bible and read something (say, one of Isaiah's visions, for example), and they think, "shit, this's here's crazier than all git-out!"

So "Dominici Gregis" took the sporatic regional restrictions on Scripture ownership/translation/reading and put the authority in the Bishops' hands.

Upon reflection, I think it's really sad that such a powerful regulation was in place universally for a full 250 years. The fortress mentality of the Church during and after the Reformation did a lot of damage to theology, and we still feel the effects of it today. But at the same time, even in the thick of those centuries, Catholic spiritual life wasn't dead, nor did Catholic belief change significantly even from the first 1200 years, when vernacular translations were the norm and popular scripture reading was encouraged."

If God knows what we will do, then we cannot do differently. Belief in God is incompatible with free will!

"Not to mention the equivocation of the word "can". It has two very distinct meanings--either it describes someone's ability according to their circumstances; or else it's used as a prediction of what they "will" do.

There's a huge logical snafu when people try to collapse "will" and "will not" with "can" or "cannot". Why? Because predicate logic, by itself, does not have time variables--statements about the future do not fit into predicate logic without modification. Such exercises in logic are not valid without the right variables.

I never got beyond predicate logic in my studies, so I can't reconstruct the dillema according to proper formula.

There's also the point that such arguments always fallaciously treat God as merely one actor among others within the world. It ignores centuries of philosophy which has consistently held that God, as first principle, is prior to time, space, dimension, whatever. Thus, the orthodox doctrine, that God is perfectly free, is impossible to refute by references to 'created' worldly principles like time and knowledge.

I anticipate someone will say, "that's a circular argument". I don't deny it. But circular arguments are not wrong--they only contain no information; they are tautologies. But we should look at this as Anselm did: any anti-theist argument that detracts from God's perfection is only arguing against a demiurge, which itself is not God, being that one can always think of that-which-is-more-perfect than an imperfect being.

So to the accusation of "circularity," the theist returns the counter-accusation of "equivocation!"

One last point is that God is not confined nor defined by the classical descriptions of "omniscient", "omnipotent", "omnipresent", and "omnibenevolent". These are more poetic than scientific; if they are treated as exhaustive, they become prisons rather than praises. Moreover, the perfections of God are not seperate nor truly distinct. God is perfect simplicity (and even that doesn't pass muster as a definiton).

It's an important element of monotheistic faiths in general that God is unspeakable, indescribable, inexhaustible mystery. In an equivocal sense, God is unknowable. I say "equivocal" because, from the believers viewpoint, God is self-revealing; i.e. we know nothing of God except that which he has desired to show us, via creation, via revelation, via reason, and for Christians, via his Son."

On whether the medieval Church conspired to keep people ignorant of science, vis-a-vis Galileo...

"This was not about science or power, but the earnestly held belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. You can't be a dastardly conspirator if you hold the same beliefs that you have been comissioned to teach the whole world."

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