Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

The World’s Religions, 50 th Anniversary Edition, Huston Smith (hereafter “Smith”) Read the chapter on Christianity 2.

Similar presentations

Presentation on theme: "The World’s Religions, 50 th Anniversary Edition, Huston Smith (hereafter “Smith”) Read the chapter on Christianity 2."— Presentation transcript:


2 The World’s Religions, 50 th Anniversary Edition, Huston Smith (hereafter “Smith”) Read the chapter on Christianity 2

3 Starting on p317, we learn Jesus …  was born around 4 BC (What!?) in Palestine, during the reign of Herod the Great  grew up in or near the city of Nazareth  was baptized by John, a “dedicated prophet who was electrifying the region with his proclamation of God’s coming judgment”  had a teaching and healing career around Galilee starting in his early 30s  “incurred the hostility of some of his own compatriots and the suspicion of Rome, which led to his crucifixion on the outskirts of Jerusalem” 3

4 Within the framework on the previous slide, Smith tries to specify the historical Jesus with three themes: 1. His spiritual orientation 2. His healing ministry / miracles 3. His social and political efforts Regarding 1:  The gospel of Luke tells us Jesus began his ministry by announcing his fulfillment of a prophecy by Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me,...” –Isaiah 61:1  That passage goes on to speak of the sick being healed, the captives being freed, etc., … the quotation in Luke roughly mirrors the passage from Isaiah above. 4

5 After announcing his ministry, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and then did what was common to all the prophets prior to him: he withdrew from people for a time (40 days in the wilderness) alone with God and returned empowered … “with the Spirit and its attendant power.”— Smith, p320 5 Moses comes down from a mountain-side (4:45 in video) meeting with God, his hair streaked white.

6 Regarding 2 (Healing ministry and miracles):  Smith notes historian Marcus Borg’s comment that Jesus was “the most important figure … in the stream of charismatic Jewish healers.”  The Gospels record his ministry as dominated by people seeking his help based on a reputation as a healer and miracle worker.  Smith adds that an explanation of how he outlived his time as dramatically as he did requires seeing him healing humanity rather than just a few individual humans. 6

7 Regarding 3 (Jesus’ social and political effects): In sum, Smith describes the political climate like this: After 100 years of Roman rule, the Jews, suffering lost freedom and crushing taxation, had reacted in four basic ways: 1. Sadducees adapted to Roman rule. 2. Essenes dropped out of society, living in communes devoted to piety. 3. Pharisees remained engage in society trying to strengthen Judaism through strict adherence to God’s law. 4. Zealots (not a formal group) launched sporadic attacks against Roman rule; their actions led to the 2 nd destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. 7

8 Jesus, Smith tells us, p322, was most like the Pharisees— engaged, urging change, devoted to Yahweh, though with a starkly different emphasis regarding Him.  The Pharisees obsessed about Yahweh’s holiness, seeing departure from the holiness codes as the source of Jewish troubles. They let the codes distinguish not just what was clean and unclean, but those who observed the codes as clean and unclean … a stratified social order had emerged in terms of personal holiness that Jesus rejected.  Jesus focused on Yahweh’s compassion. He became known for consorting with sinners—tax collectors, prostitutes, outcasts generally. He healed on the Sabbath. He drank wine.  Eventually, his clash with the Pharisees roused Roman intervention and the Pharisees, with political power, demanded Jesus’ execution. Rome obliged after concluding the charge that Jesus considered himself the king of the Jews was correct. 8

9 Under “The Mind of the Church,” Smith discusses three basic Christian doctrines: 1. The Incarnation (God becomes a human) 2. The Atonement (God reconciles with sinners) 3. The Trinity (Three distinct person are one God) The central difficulty in understanding the Incarnation is the question of how a single person could be both fully God and fully human. For example, if God is essentially all-knowing, how can he be fully human and retain that trait? Is it possible for a human being to be all-knowing? Would a person stop being God if they assumed human nature and lost or gave up some knowledge? See Thomas V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate if this interests you, as well as John Hick’s critique of Morris’ book.The Logic of God IncarnateJohn Hick’s critique 9

10 Atonement = at-one-ment … assuming a prior separation. The story is: Humans and God are separated due to Adam and Eve’s failure to resist the Devil’s temptation in the garden of Eden. What would make up for the rift and create atonement between Humans and God? Consider Anselm of Canterbury’s theory from his work Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Human).Cur Deus Homo Anselm. Man being made holy was placed in paradise, as it were in the place of God, between God and the devil, to conquer the devil by not yielding to his temptation, and so to vindicate the honor of God and put the devil to shame, because that man, though weaker and dwelling upon earth, should not sin though tempted by the devil, while the devil, though stronger and in heaven, sinned without any to tempt him. And when man could have easily effected this, he, without compulsion and of his own accord, allowed himself to be brought over to the will of the devil, contrary to the will and honor of God. (CDH, I, xxii) 10 This is the harm caused by Adam and Eve that needs fixing … a failure to “conquer the devil”

11 Anselm. Decide for yourself if it be not contrary to the honor of God for man to be reconciled to Him, with this calumnious reproach still heaped on God; unless man first shall have honored God by overcoming the devil, as he dishonored him in yielding to the devil. (CDH, I, xxii) Above Anselm begins his account of the mechanism of atonement, finding a human group obligation to ‘put the devil to shame’ by living a morally perfect life despite being actively tempted to sin. Then … Anselm. Do you not perceive that when he bore with gentle patience the insults put upon him, violence and even crucifixion among thieves that he might maintain strict holiness; by this he set men an example that they should never turn aside from the holiness due to God on account of personal sacrifice? … Now the victory ought to be of this kind, that, as in strength and immortal vigor, he freely yielded to the devil to sin, and on this account justly incurred the penalty of death; so, in weakness and mortality, which he had brought upon himself, he should conquer the devil by the pain of death, while wholly avoiding sin. (CDH, I, xxiii) 11 This is the fix provided by “the second Adam,” as the Apostle Paul calls Jesus.

12 Why does the being who conquers the devil have to be both God and Man? 1. To avoid disorder: God must do it 2. To preserve dignity: Man must do it Regarding 1, why God must do it: Anselm. Do you not perceive that, if any other being should rescue man from eternal death, man would rightly be adjudged as the servant of that being? Now if this be so, he would in no wise be restored to that dignity which would have been his had he never sinned. For he, who was to be through eternity only the servant of God and an equal with the holy angels, would now be the servant of a being who was not God, and whom the angels did not serve. (CDH, I, v) 12

13 Why does the being who conquers the devil have to be both God and Man? 1. To avoid disorder: God must do it 2. To preserve dignity: Man must do it Regarding 2, why Man must do it: Anselm. It now remains to inquire whence and how God shall assume human nature. For he will either take it from Adam, or else he will make a new man, as he made Adam originally. But, if he makes a new man, not of Adam’s race, then this man will not belong to the human family, which descended from Adam, and therefore ought not to make atonement for it, because he never belonged to it. For, as it is right for man to make atonement for the sin of man, it is also necessary that he who makes the atonement should be the very being who has sinned, or else one of the same race. Otherwise, neither Adam nor his race would make satisfaction for themselves.... Wherefore, if the race of Adam be reinstated by any being not of the same race, it will not be restored to that dignity which it would have had, had Adam not sinned, and so will not be completely restored; and, besides, God will seemed to have failed in his purpose, both of which suppositions are incongruous. It is, therefore, necessary that the man by whom Adam’s race shall be restored be taken from Adam. (CDH, II, viii) 13

14 Two important conditions for human happiness are 1. kind-distinctive moral integrity and 2. freedom from the appeal of choices contrary to obligation. Call such appeal Lousy Mental Posture (LMP) and suppose that LMP is necessary for an important kind of moral development after which it is a liability. Moral dispositions free of LMP can be meritoriously established for human kind by an exemplar of humanity, either Adam or Christ, persevering in moral uprightness in spite of LMP throughout some trial period. *Persevering establishes kind-distinctive moral integrity inheritable by others of that kind.  Adam failed to merit the riddance of LMP from his psychology in his trial period.  Christ merited the riddance of LMP from his (human) psychology in his trial period. Christ’s LMP-free dispositions are inheritable in that he can will them to whomever he wishes—he offers them to humans under conditions scripture specifies. On this salvation theory, humans are freed of two causes of unhappiness by receiving moral perfection from Christ. 14 Neither Smith nor Anselm distinguish salvation from atonement, but this account of salvation is latent in Anselm’s work

15 Smith considers the question of what prompted the doctrine to emerge in the early church, and answers as he usually does: “due to some experience”: The Theological doctrine of the Trinity was not set in place until the fourth century, but the experiences that it impounds are those of the earliest church; indeed, they generated that church.—Smith, p345 Having already gotten used to the idea that Jesus and Yahweh were the same, a large number of disciples, all together in one place for Pentecost (a Jewish celebration of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai held 50 days after the event), experienced God in a new way. 15

16 …suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts2:1-4) Early Christian experience, argues Smith, provided the basis of what later reflection justified. How did Christians conclude God must be three persons? Smith again, p345: If the divine “triangle” has three sides now, it must always have had three sides. The Son and the Holy Spirit had indeed proceeded principially from the Father, not temporally. …the other two Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Islam, reject this theology, but Christians love it. For love is a relationship, they say, and love is incomplete without others to love. If, then, love is not just one of God’s attributes, but instead God’s very essence … at no point could God have been truly God without having relationships. Is this sort of essentialist argument successful in proving God is multiple persons? ______________ What alternatives are available for the nature of an essentially loving or good being? _____________ 16

17 Christian philosophers and theologians have had a lot to say about this question. On the following slides are a variety of moves open to theists who accept perfect-being theology. Perfect-being theology =df the study of God as a maximally perfect being. 17

18 Consider this argument based, loosely, on Alvin Plantinga’s work in God and Other Minds. (God need not be a ‘perfect being’ in this argument, and I’ve simplified so greatly that the following is a distortion. Little harm is done, however, in this brief survey.)God and Other Minds 1. Skepticism has show that there are no good deductive, inductive, nor abductive reasons (no proof nor even evidence) to accept belief in the minds of persons other than myself, nor in the existence of an external world of physical objects. 2. Nevertheless, no one should be faulted for such beliefs because they seem natural and spontaneously arise in healthy human beings universally. 3. Similarly, belief in God seems natural and spontaneously arises in healthy human beings universally (or nearly so). 4. Therefore, belief in God is as rational as belief in other minds or belief in a physical world, that is to say, it is rational to believe in God without proof or even evidence. 18

19 The “Great Pumpkin” Objection: What if everyone believed naturally and spontaneously in the Great Pumpkin of Charlie Brown lore? Would it be rational to believe in the Great Pumpkin? Surely not! So, baloney, belief in God is not rational on those grounds. Reply: 1. No one believes in the Great Pumpkin. 2. Supposing, however, someone or even everyone believed in the Great Pumpkin, such could be rationally believed if open to critical appraisal… What makes a belief rationally held or reasonably held is more a matter of openness to critical arguments than finding evidence to support the belief. Question: can you change your beliefs anyway? _____ A more true-to-history discussion of the objection 19

20 If reasons are important for reasonably believing in God, Anselm’s Ontological Argument and Aquinas’s Five Ways are Christian classics. Consider Anselm’s Ontological Argument (modal version): Everything falls into one or more of the following categories of existence: A. Necessary B. Actual C. Possible D. Impossible A greatest conceivable being (GCB) cannot exist in category D because, being conceivable, it is possible. A GCB cannot exist merely in category C because it could then be conceived to be greater (actual existence in greater than mere possible existence). So it must exist at least in category B. A GCB cannot exist merely in category B because it could then be conceived to be greater (necessary existence is greater than mere actual existence). So it must exist in category A. Therefore, if a GCB is possible, it must be necessary. Another name for a GCB is ‘God’. 20

21 Gaunilo’s “Greatest Conceivable Island” Objection: Run the entire argument on the previous slide substituting GCI for GCB and, voila!, a greatest conceivable island must exist … but surely there is no such island. Reply: Since islands are made great by properties like fineness of sand, hula girls, palm trees, number and quality of coconuts, etc., the concept of a greatest conceivable island is incoherent (it is always possible to add more palm trees, coconuts, etc., and so never reach a perfect or maximally great island). On the other hand, a GCB’s properties exemplify, as Plantinga calls them, intrinsic maxima. Intrinsic maximum of knowledge: knowing all there is to know. Intrinsic maximum of power: being able to do any possible thing. Intrinsic maximum of goodness: always and or only doing good. Each of God’s traditional ‘perfections’ has an intrinsic maximum that allows for a coherent concept of maximal greatness. 21

22 The “Least Conceivable Being” Objection: Run the entire argument on slide 9 substituting ‘LCB’ for ‘GCB’ … you have proven the least being conceivable must exist. Reply: 1. Okay. Why is that a problem? Granted! 2. Supposing it is a problem, since any knowledge, power, or goodness is pretty great, a being which is the least being conceivable would have none of those in any degree. What kind of being would it be? Pure inert matter? A speck of inert matter? Just a speck of potential pure inert matter? It isn’t clear what such a being would be. 22

23 The “Maximally Evil Conceivable Being” Objection: Run the entire argument on slide 9 substituting ‘MECB’ for ‘GCB’ … you have proven a maximally evil conceivable being must exist. Reply: Since ‘greatest’ in GCB does not mean ‘maximally good’, such an argument is not parallel. Counter: But you could begin the ontological argument with MGCB … and it would work out the same, and so ‘maximally good’ does mean ‘greatest’ … or the terms are interchangeable for the logic of the argument. Reply: Fine. But Evil is non-being … a privation, remember? The great chain of being doesn’t begin with a necessary non-being, it begins with a necessary being, and existence flows from it because it must share. 23

24 Counter: Evil must share too … misery! Evil is diffusive of itself. It is contradictory to imagine a being which is perfectly evil but doesn’t share its evil. So, the ultimate being is perfectly evil, and created the universe to share its misery. Reply: For argument’s sake, grant that evil is not a mere lack of good. Nevertheless, to know is better than not to know. To be able is better than not to be able. So, to be the MECB requires perfect knowledge and power. But knowledge and power are good things. Since the concept of a maximally evil being includes being both evil and good, the concept of a perfectly evil being is incoherent, i.e., a maximally evil being would have to be perfectly good in many ways, and so not perfectly, maximally, or purely evil. Incoherent beings are not possible, and so the MECB ontological argument fails to get started. Counter: Have to think about that. :/ 24

25 The “Existence is not a Real Predicate” Objection: According to Emmanuel Kant, the Ontological argument fails because existence is not a “real” predicate, i.e., not a real property. After all, if something lacked existence, it wouldn’t be there to display its lack of existence (unlike a real property like redness … when something lacks redness, it is there, all blue or yellow, or any color other than red). Reply: That seems like a pretty good point. If the Ontological argument is to work, “God” has to be possible, meaning, “God” occupies the realm of the possible … is present there. But do any things occupy the realm of the possible? Let’s think about that … 25

26 What does it mean to say something is “possible”? Here are three options illustrated using a bat in a closet: 1. There is a bat in the closet, possibly. (Meaning, for all we know, there is a bat in the closet) 2. It is possible that there is a bat in the closet. (Meaning, reality allows for a bat to occupy the closet) 3. There is a possible bat in the closet. (Meaning, there is a certain kind of bat, call it a “possible bat,” and it is actually in the closet) 26

27 Option 1 expresses epistemic possibility; it is a statement about our limited knowledge, not about the subject matter in question (God or bats). Option 2 expresses real or metaphysical possibility; it is a statement about what reality permits to exist or occur. Option 3 expresses possible worlds actualism; there are possible beings that make up the realm of the metaphysically possible. Kant seems to think the Ontological argument employs option 3, and we can understand his criticism as saying something like the following: If you start off with merely possible things, there is really nothing there to add a property to, i.e., there is no “possible God” in the realm of the possible to get the argument going. 27

28 So, the question becomes, is it rational or reasonable to believe in ‘possible beings’, reified objects of imagination? On one hand, possible beings look pretty silly. How many possible bats can exist in a closet? Do they take up any space? Can there be an infinite number of them in a confined area? Can they actually be in a place? Etc. On the other hand, ‘possible beings’ may be misleading, and this version of the Ontological argument might work given the GCB’s status as a mere ‘object’. Alexius Meinong’s ontology includes existents, subsistents, and objects. The GCB is an object in such a system, and all objects have reality as objects. Could ‘object’ status drive the ontological argument? ____________ Alvin Plantinga approaches the argument differently, and concludes in God, Freedom and Evil (and elsewhere) the argument is successful to the degree you believe this statement is false:God, Freedom and Evil It is impossible that maximal greatness is instantiated. (note no mention of ‘possible beings’ at all) (Click the image of Plantinga if you are interested in Graham Oppy’s criticism of him … is Oppy right about arguments?) 28 Alexius Meinong (picture is a link)

29 Aquinas’ Five Ways are famous arguments for God’s existence. None are considered demonstrative (flawless deductions of God’s existence from known premises), but they aren’t considered bad, either. The final way has recently received a makeover…Five Ways 1. The argument from motion 2. The argument from efficient causes 3. The argument from possibility and necessity 4. The argument from gradation of being 5. The argument from design Number 5, the design argument, argues that the universe exhibits design, and design requires a designer. The only plausible universe designer is God, so, God exists. Reply: Design can arise without a designer according to lawful events. For example, sediment falling out of turbulent water will make layered designs due to how gravity affects the variety of masses. Generally, as energy leaves any system, increases in design or order can arise by natural processes alone. No God needed. 29

30 Yeah but … Recent study of basic physical laws, forces, etc., have altered that. Considering four basic forces, the four universal constants, has reinvigorated the design argument.  The four constants are strength-of-force values of the four basic forces: weak and strong atomic force, electromagnetism, and gravity.  The strength of those forces was set in the first moments of the big bang.  If any of those forces were ever so slightly altered, life in the universe as we know it would be physically impossible or prohibitively improbable. How finely tuned do those forces have to be for life to be possible? ______________ See Robin Collins for the details (see his 157 slide PowerPoint if you’re interested in this cutting edge stuff).Robin Collins 30

31 How is this a revitalization of the design argument?  Because the four universal constants are set by random chance—since no physical laws exist to determine the strength these constants acquire— their fine tuning is fantastically improbable.  Fantastically improbable things call for explanations.  The physical laws of the universe cannot give such an explanation because they didn’t exist when the strength of the constants was set … the constants themselves set the physical laws and so seem to have no natural explanation. But, the argument goes, they call for an explanation. They appear to be designed, but no natural designer is possible. Therefore, God did it. 31 Listen to Robin Collins explain the basics of Fine Tuning

32 Reply: There it is again … the ‘God did it’ argument. God of the gaps! Just because science can’t explain something now doesn’t mean it won’t find an explanation in the future! Yeah but … This is a pretty ultimate situation, which is prime territory for God-based explanation. What else could possibly explain this fine tuning? Reply: A multiverse, for one. Eternal expansion and collapse of the universe … a big bang big crunch in which the constants are reset over and over. 32

33 Yeah but … The evidence says there will be no big crunch, and a multiverse has no empirical evidence to support it other than the radical improbability that the constants were set ‘just so’ by natural processes. Reply: Here is perhaps reliable empirical evidence for a multiverse. So, I win!reliable empirical evidence for a multiverse Yeah but … I’m getting tired, so let me ask you: where are these multiple universes coming from? A multiverse generator? Such a thing would have to also have certain set forces, and the argument is pushed back further. You are eventually going to need an explainer that is simple … like God. Reply: Says you. Maybe these universes just spontaneously expand. Anyway, I’m getting tired, too. Nice arguing! Later! 33

34 All images are taken from Wikimedia Commons.Wikimedia Commons They are Public Domain images requiring no attribution for use; the images contain links to their source. Pumpkin image on slide 8 is from Flickr Commons (image contains link to source). Island image on slide 10 is a product of the source code of the strategy game, 0 A.D. (image contains link to source). 34

Download ppt "The World’s Religions, 50 th Anniversary Edition, Huston Smith (hereafter “Smith”) Read the chapter on Christianity 2."

Similar presentations

Ads by Google