Thread: It's the teaching that matters Board: Purgatory / Ship of Fools.


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Posted by Chorister (# 473) on :
 
"Jesus had me at “love your enemies”. He sealed the deal with “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, the parables of the good samaritan, the prodigal son, his transgression of the gender norms of the time, his emphasis on mercy and forgiveness, his reaching out to society’s outcasts, his practical help to the sick and hungry. That’s enough for me, as it evidently was to his disciples, who gave up what they had to follow him long before any crucifixion or resurrection."

So says Peter Ormerod, in the Guardian.

Sounds a pretty good gospel to me: can we therefore dispense with the life, and death, and re-life story and just concentrate on the jolly fine teachings instead?
 
Posted by Eutychus (# 3081) on :
 
No, because if it is only in this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than anyone else in the world.
 
Posted by Chorister (# 473) on :
 
Why?
 
Posted by Eutychus (# 3081) on :
 
I've been round this one lots of times.

I was struck on a visit to the European Court of Human Rights by a comment by the then ECHR judge Ann Power-Forde: that the right to hope should be a fundamental human right.

As I see it, hope requires something beyond what we can apprehend (the writer to the Hebrews says something like this, too).

Otherwise it's all vanity of vanities.

Some Pascal's Wager part of me likes to imagine I'd be better off living the Jesus way even if there is no hope of the resurrection, but that would mean I'd lived my entire life as the mark in a cosmic con trick.

This somehow does not add up with the values taught by Christ.

And try as I intellectually might, I can't separate his teaching from his resurrection and the hope that goes with it.
 
Posted by Og, King of Bashan (# 9562) on :
 
This bit about the Disciples following Jesus before the Crucifixion business isn't really telling an important part of the Gospels. Jesus is pretty clear throughout that his way is going to lead to his death, and likely to the deaths of his followers. They often follow him in spite of this news, and sometimes have to be scolded for trying to persuade Jesus that he can't allow this to happen.

An important part of the Gospel is that it is in opposition to the dominant powers that be, and that those powers will try to stifle it. Jesus' crucifixion, for many folks, is more about this than any concept of substitutionary atonement. And even folks who question if the resurrection was a historical supernatural event will tell you that there was something about Jesus that caused a movement to rise up after his death that continues to inspire folks to change the world for the better.

Basically, to ignore the death and resurrection (whatever that means to you) is to ignore a major part of Jesus' own teaching, and the historical impact of his life.

I might also add that if you are just looking for a moral guide, you can definitely find other examples who don't come with all of the baggage of two thousand years of squabbles and two billion other followers. So why Jesus?
 
Posted by HCH (# 14313) on :
 
I mostly agree with Chorister, although instead of the phrase "dispense with" I might say "deemphasize".
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
I basically agree with Og. Whatever theory one might have of the atonement, you still consider it to be centrally important.

In contrast, if you say that part wasn't really very important and what really matters is the teaching, then you have failure. The teachings don't really make a lot of sense, and can't really be lived if taken straight. You can't give everything you have to anyone who asks for it. You can't have a political system where nobody judges.

I'd wholeheartedly agree that the true faith is to believe in Jesus Christ: his life, death and resurrection. But it clearly isn't Jesus Christ: his life, message and mumble mumble.
 
Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :
 
I've a lot of sympathy with Mr Ormerod here. Even if Jesus had only given us the so-called parable of the sheep and the goats, he would be the equal of any moral teacher in history. The kingdom is built here among us, or nowhere.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
I've a lot of sympathy with Mr Ormerod here. Even if Jesus had only given us the so-called parable of the sheep and the goats, he would be the equal of any moral teacher in history. The kingdom is built here among us, or nowhere.

Really? Philosophically poorly worked out compared to Aristotle. Politically naive compared to Plato. Pretty weak compared to the complexity of moral teaching of the Buddha or Mohammed.

The gospel teaching has layers of meaning, but I'd argue that only is revealed from within the framework of the atonement. Cutting that out leaves very little of any real help as per moral teaching.
 
Posted by Schroedinger's cat (# 64) on :
 
No, because the Christian faith is incarnational, because Jesus actual life is important. It is not just "good teaching", it is about the presence of God on the world.

The teaching is really just explaining stuff. there are plenty of good teachers. But Jesus was God being a human being, living in the world. Because Christianity is about living out the faith.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
No, because the Christian faith is incarnational, because Jesus actual life is important. It is not just "good teaching", it is about the presence of God on the world.

The teaching is really just explaining stuff. there are plenty of good teachers. But Jesus was God being a human being, living in the world. Because Christianity is about living out the faith.

Right, but then I guess you could have the incarnation without the atonement.

To which I'd reply, with William Penn: no cross, no crown.
 
Posted by Chorister (# 473) on :
 
Being a follower of his teachings is a jolly good way to live though, right? I'm a big fan of trying to get it right in the here and now and then letting the future take care of itself.

Quite frankly, I find people who spend their whole lives striving for a future heaven rather scary.
 
Posted by Nick Tamen (# 15164) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Og, King of Bashan:
This bit about the Disciples following Jesus before the Crucifixion business isn't really telling an important part of the Gospels. Jesus is pretty clear throughout that his way is going to lead to his death, and likely to the deaths of his followers. They often follow him in spite of this news, and sometimes have to be scolded for trying to persuade Jesus that he can't allow this to happen.

I agree. I also think that the idea that the disciples followed Jesus because of what he taught ignores those parts of the texts that strongly indicate they failed to understand or even accept Jesus's teachings, but they still followed him. They followed him, as you suggest, not because of what he taught, but because of who they thought he was.
 
Posted by Nick Tamen (# 15164) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
Quite frankly, I find people who spend their whole lives striving for a future heaven rather scary.

So do I. But I also think that those who spend their lives striving for a future heaven have completely missed the point of the Incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:


Quite frankly, I find people who spend their whole lives striving for a future heaven rather scary.

Not sure if that's addressed to me, but I don't think "No Cross, no crown" is just about heaven.
 
Posted by Eutychus (# 3081) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
Quite frankly, I find people who spend their whole lives striving for a future heaven rather scary.

There's a big difference between striving for a future heaven and hoping for one.
 
Posted by no prophet's flag is set so... (# 15560) on :
 
@OP,
I agree with the sentiments expressed by Chorister, Adeodatus.

I don't go for much in the way of atonement. Maybe there's something to it, but I don't care about it. The world has been distorted and misshapen by people who thought Grace in the belief in sacrificial theology was enough to get the ticket to heaven, whose works are exploitation and maybe today, a corporate sponsorship with naming rights on a hospital wing. Which is the modern equivalent to nobility funding a kapellmeister or composer and donating lands to fund a church's living. Which is why Christendom and Christian nations have never existed.

If we had ever focussed on Christian teachings we would be a heaven of a lot better off.
 
Posted by HCH (# 14313) on :
 
As I said, deemphasize.
 
Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
I've a lot of sympathy with Mr Ormerod here. Even if Jesus had only given us the so-called parable of the sheep and the goats, he would be the equal of any moral teacher in history. The kingdom is built here among us, or nowhere.

Really? Philosophically poorly worked out compared to Aristotle. Politically naive compared to Plato. Pretty weak compared to the complexity of moral teaching of the Buddha or Mohammed.
Well, you could call Lao-tze trite, Socrates flippant and Seneca a boring old fogey if you wanted, but that just shows it's easy to dismiss any teacher up to the point that you let them get under your skin.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
Well, you could call Lao-tze trite, Socrates flippant and Seneca a boring old fogey if you wanted, but that just shows it's easy to dismiss any teacher up to the point that you let them get under your skin.

Well you could; but it surely isn't a controversial point that many philosophers had more worked out moral teaching than the gospels. Is it?
 
Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :
 
On a pragmatic level, if Jesus as Redeemer and Son of God is irrelevant then much of what we say and hear and do in church worship is a waste of time. Our liturgies and hymns are maintained only because they're beautiful, or perhaps as a sideways form of ancestor worship.

On a more serious level, if this is what we truly believe then our words, music and rituals must be described as somewhat blasphemous (that's if we still actually believe in God).

At first glance, I wouldn't describe this as a religion for people who are trying to live authentically. Too much obfuscation and waffle.
 
Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
Well, you could call Lao-tze trite, Socrates flippant and Seneca a boring old fogey if you wanted, but that just shows it's easy to dismiss any teacher up to the point that you let them get under your skin.

Well you could; but it surely isn't a controversial point that many philosophers had more worked out moral teaching than the gospels. Is it?
I'm not sure about that. None of those I mentioned really had what I would call a systematic moral philosophy. Anyway, the characters I have in mind when I think of the great teachers are those I feel not a rational, but a heartfelt attraction to. And I think it's in the nature of charismatic moral teachers that their teachings tend to be fragmentary. If you want systematic moral philosophy in Western philosophy before Christ, you really have to go to Aristotle, who surely can't be called charismatic by any stretch of the imagination. I would read Aristotle for a sort of dusty, dutiful illumination, but for something to actually care about I'd go to Jesus, or Epicurus, or one of the Taoist fathers.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
I've resisted saying this so far but surely it's a both/and thing?
 
Posted by rolyn (# 16840) on :
 
Christianity, or the practicing of it, is a bit scary. The history of it isn't just scary it is alarming and disturbing.

The teachings alone do not appear to set Christians apart from 2017 Secularism. On the contrary, most of the attributes set out in the OP are better demonstrated these days by a modern society that has moved away from the fixed attitudes promoted by traditional religion.
 
Posted by Enoch (# 14322) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
"Jesus had me at “love your enemies”. He sealed the deal with “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, the parables of the good samaritan, the prodigal son, his transgression of the gender norms of the time, his emphasis on mercy and forgiveness, his reaching out to society’s outcasts, his practical help to the sick and hungry. ...

Three questions. Two you can answer. One you won't be able to?
1. Are you consistently succeeding in doing all those things?
2. Is Peter Ormerod doing so?
3. If this is just moral teaching without the existential dimension, why bother?
 
Posted by no prophet's flag is set so... (# 15560) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
3. If this is just moral teaching without the existential dimension, why bother?

Because there are universal ethical principles which fill the existential vacuum. Because empathy and serving others whilst not neglecting your own joy. Because transcendence of life's difficulties is answered by goodness. Existential anxiety isn't answered at the bedside of the dying except through these things. And a wee bit of beauty and good humour.
 
Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
Sounds a pretty good gospel to me: can we therefore dispense with the life, and death, and re-life story and just concentrate on the jolly fine teachings instead?

Because among the teachings are teachings saying there's more to it than the teachings. If you disregard those teachings, you've already gone beyond concentrating on just the teachings, as you've brought in something from the outside -- viz., whatever criteria you are using to decide which jolly fine teachings to concentrate on, and which to dispense with.
 
Posted by Og, King of Bashan (# 9562) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
3. If this is just moral teaching without the existential dimension, why bother?

Because there are universal ethical principles which fill the existential vacuum. Because empathy and serving others whilst not neglecting your own joy. Because transcendence of life's difficulties is answered by goodness. Existential anxiety isn't answered at the bedside of the dying except through these things. And a wee bit of beauty and good humour.
I guess I wonder the same thing as Enoch, but maybe with a slightly different way of asking why bother.

If what you are looking for is a universal ethical principle, why go with some rural preacher from first-century Palestine whose movement was barely off the ground before he was killed, and whose teachings we only know through heavily interpreted texts written decades after his death? Especially when he comes with all of the baggage of Jesus, including 2000 years of at times nasty things done in his name. Why chose to associate your moral beliefs with that when you can find it somewhere else?

[ 04. April 2017, 23:24: Message edited by: Og, King of Bashan ]
 
Posted by no prophet's flag is set so... (# 15560) on :
 
Your response actually partly names it: history. Another part is culture. Still another is the positive things done in his name. Some of these things are bread in the bone, and yes, bad an good things.
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
It's not a mistake to admire and love Jesus' teachings. If he is whom he said he is, then those teachings are the purest form of all the good stuff we find in other teachers who were (whether they knew it or not) borrowing from him, the Source of everything.

But great as it is for us to get the teaching straight from the source, the Gospels make it clear that wasn't his main purpose in coming here. That had to do with his suffering, death and resurrection, as he kept saying. To focus on the teaching alone is to miss out on the main point of the Incarnation. Which would be a shame.
 
Posted by Anglican_Brat (# 12349) on :
 
I would put it differently, I would say that it is not objectionable per say, to focus on some parts of the faith than others. Some forms of right-wing Protestant Christianity frankly ignore the social teachings of Our Lord, when they vote for increasing military spending or cuts to the poor.

So, some liberal Protestants. don't do the supernatural bit too much and prefer to focus on the ethical teachings. I'd bet there are quite a few in mainline Anglicanism who would fall in that camp.
 
Posted by Schroedinger's cat (# 64) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
No, because the Christian faith is incarnational, because Jesus actual life is important. It is not just "good teaching", it is about the presence of God on the world.

The teaching is really just explaining stuff. there are plenty of good teachers. But Jesus was God being a human being, living in the world. Because Christianity is about living out the faith.

Right, but then I guess you could have the incarnation without the atonement.

To which I'd reply, with William Penn: no cross, no crown.

No - because his physical death was also part of his physical existence. And some of his teaching was to help understand that.

I don't think his teaching was bad or wrong, or even should be ignored. It is great, and what I seek to live by*. But without the incarnational aspect of his ministry, it is all hot air. If nothing else, he came and lived it, to show what it meant.

*Badly, of course
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
I would put it differently, I would say that it is not objectionable per say, to focus on some parts of the faith than others. Some forms of right-wing Protestant Christianity frankly ignore the social teachings of Our Lord, when they vote for increasing military spending or cuts to the poor.

You don't find that objectionable?

quote:
So, some liberal Protestants. don't do the supernatural bit too much and prefer to focus on the ethical teachings. I'd bet there are quite a few in mainline Anglicanism who would fall in that camp.
I'd love to know what ethical teachings these liberal Protestants believe in, because I can't see any real evidence of them giving all their money to the poor, of them taking up their cross unto death, of them loving the enemy.

ISTM that the gospel teachings can only ever be understood within some wider framework. If one doesn't like the supernatural stuff then taking the gospel teaching seriously can only be done by creating another framework to fit it within.

Take Gandhiji, who had a rather fanatical belief in some aspects of the gospel teaching which is a challenge to many Christians. He rejected the Christian "supernatural stuff", but instead fitted the teaching within another framework.

The alternative is not to live the Christian ethical framework and live the Christian ethical teaching, because the teaching makes no sense without some framework. Either one takes or creates an alternative framework within which to understand that teaching, or one is into self-deception and is kidding oneself about the attachment to the abstract gospel teaching.
 
Posted by Og, King of Bashan (# 9562) on :
 
As I said on the Personal Creed thread, I've been on a Borg kick lately. He would definitely fall into the "alternative" framework described directly above, although he might have quibbled about which framework was the newer alternative. At any rate, I have found the books to be extremely stimulating, and they have me more interested in studying the Bible, not to mention less troubled by the difference between what I sometimes thought I was supposed to believe and what I actually believe.

I think that focusing on the teachings at the expense of other parts of the Gospels might rob folks of rich opportunities to really engage with and wrestle with their faith.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:

...
If we had ever focussed on Christian teachings we would be a heaven of a lot better off.

Where's the quotes file?
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
Sounds a pretty good gospel to me: can we therefore dispense with the life, and death, and re-life story and just concentrate on the jolly fine teachings instead?

Because among the teachings are teachings saying there's more to it than the teachings. If you disregard those teachings, you've already gone beyond concentrating on just the teachings, as you've brought in something from the outside -- viz., whatever criteria you are using to decide which jolly fine teachings to concentrate on, and which to dispense with.
I.e. beyond living a good life which is its own reward, beyond being kind for its own sake (who then shall save me from this body of death? ...) there IS eternal life in actual transcendent paradise. WAH-HOO!!! I want that. Me, me, me, me. For everyone.
 
Posted by quetzalcoatl (# 16740) on :
 
Well, yes, ethical teachings without some kind of transcendence are rather meagre fare, aren't they? Most religions seem to combine the two, even the religions, such as Buddhism often described as atheist.

In fact, it strikes me that some versions of theism wreck transcendence, since it is over there, while I am here. It is lost. But then the atonement doesn't do buttons for me.

But then in some Eastern religions you have the issue of living with the not-two and the two, or duality and non-duality, where the latter represents some kind of transcendence. How do we do this? Like this! (Smashes 25 bricks with forehead). Have you got an aspirin?
 
Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
 
No, because those teachings were not original - lots of other pharisees said similar things.
 
Posted by mark_in_manchester (# 15978) on :
 
No-one can ever say why they think some of His teachings are a 'good' thing - 'good' enough to redact from the whole, and where necessary to overcome the whole.

I don't think it's much more than aesthetic - "don't do that, dear, it isn't nice".

If we want to transcend pride, that isn't a good place to start. But we'd need a reason to want to transcend pride.
 
Posted by Chorister (# 473) on :
 
It's my understanding that Jesus, at least in his younger days, sought to understand and interpret the teachings of others. So he built on what was already there. I cannot see why doing the same today should open anyone up to a cosmic con trick.

It seemed to me that Jesus spent rather a lot of his time shushing people up if they tried to big him up at all (or too soon?). Perhaps our role is to quietly do the same, wtihout worrying about the bigger picture, and let the future take care of itself.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
No, because those teachings were not original - lots of other pharisees said similar things.

About the poor, women, children, disabled, afflicted, sick, ethnic minorities, sinners?

Where?
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
It's not a mistake to admire and love Jesus' teachings. If he is whom he said he is, then those teachings are the purest form of all the good stuff we find in other teachers who were (whether they knew it or not) borrowing from him, the Source of everything.

But great as it is for us to get the teaching straight from the source, the Gospels make it clear that wasn't his main purpose in coming here. That had to do with his suffering, death and resurrection, as he kept saying. To focus on the teaching alone is to miss out on the main point of the Incarnation. Which would be a shame.

Plenty of us are creedal and know we have eternal life. We just don't live as if we do. Therefore we ... don't. Have it.

[ 06. April 2017, 09:55: Message edited by: Martin60 ]
 
Posted by BroJames (# 9636) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
"Jesus had me at “love your enemies”. He sealed the deal with “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, the parables of the good samaritan, the prodigal son, his transgression of the gender norms of the time, his emphasis on mercy and forgiveness, his reaching out to society’s outcasts, his practical help to the sick and hungry. That’s enough for me, as it evidently was to his disciples, who gave up what they had to follow him long before any crucifixion or resurrection."

So says Peter Ormerod, in the Guardian.

Sounds a pretty good gospel to me: can we therefore dispense with the life, and death, and re-life story and just concentrate on the jolly fine teachings instead?

I think it's quite easy to take a subset of Jesus' teaching and actions (usually focussed on ethics) which are culturally acceptable in today's society and say 'That's enough for me'. But the original disciples took the whole Jesus - not just that subset, and those same disciples were also massively concerned about his death and resurrection, and about what it meant. The Jesus whom the disciples followed was a Jesus whose life, words and actions included the things Peter Ormerod mentions but they were fundamentally shaped by Jesus' growing foreknowledge of his death - a death which for him was both purposeful and purposive, and not just a consequence of saying things which were unacceptable to the PTB.

ISTM that if we consistently take Peter Ormerod's line, we end up following a not-Jesus, or at least an incomplete Jesus (which IMO comes to the same thing).

Along the same lines it's interesting that Peter Ormerod doesn't address the moment when Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment, and begins with love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and then the second commandment is love your neighbour as yourself.

In the end I would say that truly understood Christian faith is not about striving for heaven, but about recognising that I fall below the standard for heaven, and instead accepting it as a gift of God in Jesus Christ, and then doing my best to live up to the gift which I have been given.
 
Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :
 
I really don't understand why people think that if you remove the idea that you get a "heavenly reward", then Jesus's moral teaching loses value. Surely reward-based ethics is the very lowest form of ethics? - you end up doing things basically from the most selfish of motives.

I also don't see why his teaching loses value if you remove the claim that he was God. "Yeah, but our guy is God" seems to be a pretty crude knock-down line which you'd employ if you were trying to defend bad teaching, not good. Imagine: "Thou shalt beat kittens with sticks." "But that's a terrible thing to do!" "Yeah, but God says so...."
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
OK so explain how exactly one rationalises and lives the ethics of Jesus as described in the gospels in the abstract. What does it even look like to live that ethic?
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
Absolutely Adeodatus. Being creedal doesn't stop us being unkind in the slightest, doesn't make us incarnational. At all.

[ 06. April 2017, 10:15: Message edited by: Martin60 ]
 
Posted by Doc Tor (# 9748) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
No, because those teachings were not original - lots of other pharisees said similar things.

How strange that the people who heard Jesus speak disagree with you.
 
Posted by BroJames (# 9636) on :
 
I agree with you Adeodatus. I think the idea that Christian teaching is that heaven is a reward for good behaviour is one of the most persistent distortions of Christian belief both within and outside the Church that we have to contend with, along with the closely related idea that Christian faith is primarily about ethics.

[ 06. April 2017, 10:25: Message edited by: BroJames ]
 
Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
OK so explain how exactly one rationalises and lives the ethics of Jesus as described in the gospels in the abstract. What does it even look like to live that ethic?

Just off the top of my head I can think of three important ways (cliche, I know, but I really can think of three at the moment) in which Jesus's ethics beat any others around at the time, and still have immense power today, when all our instincts tend to pull in the opposite direction to his teaching.

First, he removed any thought of behaving well so that you could receive a reward (in this life at any rate). Doing good in order to be seen doing good was replaced with the idea of doing good, full stop. Hence, do your alms in secret, etc.

Secondly, he completely blew apart so many of our "Yes but" responses to ethical teaching. We love to set limits and make exceptions. Jesus's teaching says we can't. Love your friends? - no, love your enemies. Do good to those who do you good? - no, do good to those who hate you. Give the stranger shelter unless she's a Syrian refugee? - no, give the stranger shelter, full stop. This "no exceptions" idea in ethical behaviour is huge.

Thirdly, is Jesus's teaching on hypocrisy, about which, you'll recall, he had fairly strong views. Before I can say that Jesus's moral teaching is for you, I must acknowledge that it is for me. I must remove the log from my eye before I can presume to remove the speck from yours. I cannot put a burden on you and not lift a finger to help you bear it. It's this element of the teaching that, arguably, give it its moral force: I cannot ask you to go further than I would go. I cannot ask you to sacrifice something I wouldn't sacrifice. I cannot ask you to bear a load I won't help you carry. I don't have to be good at practising these ethics, but I have to be trying to at least as hard as I would ask you to try.
 
Posted by Marvin the Martian (# 4360) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
OK so explain how exactly one rationalises and lives the ethics of Jesus as described in the gospels in the abstract. What does it even look like to live that ethic?

Exactly the same as it does to live it under any other philosophy. The actions are the same regardless of the underlying theology.
 
Posted by Doc Tor (# 9748) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
Just off the top of my head I can think of three important ways (cliche, I know, but I really can think of three at the moment) in which Jesus's ethics beat any others around at the time, and still have immense power today, when all our instincts tend to pull in the opposite direction to his teaching.

<snip>

Just wanted to say, this is brilliant. Thanks.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
mr cheesy. Is it that Jesus embodies the fact of eternal life against all the full, complete and perfect evidence that there is none in the eternal sufficiency of matter, that when I woke this morning from the little death in deep rational paradoxical awareness of looming endless oblivion and spoke to God, it was absurd to invoke an entity of trans-infinite complexity hearing my thoughts, feeling my feelings, but for Jesus ... and that therefore I have no excuse not for being kind apart from the fact I don't know how?

Why are so many of us so mediocre? So unkind? So feeble. So vile. So non-incarnational. Us Christians.

And so may non-Christians are better?
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
I don't know what that means.

I can see one might think that the gospel ethic is "be nice", but I still can't see how one can take it seriously in totality as an ethic in and of itself. The teaching just doesn't hold together as an ethic, the demands are too great.

Equivalent to an ethic that says "be an olympic badminton player by doing x y and z training". Most of us, I suggest, are not going to be an olympic athlete however much we might agree that the training is the only way to get to it.

One might rationalise it and say "well, I can't be an Olympic badminton player, but I can be a better player by following this training" or "this training seems a worthwhile thing to follow" or "I think I might do some of those stretching exercises" - but I suggest that it is unlikely that anyone is ever going to be committed to these ideals in any of those circumstances. At best it is going to be a pale shadow of the programme, at worst it is going to have nothing to do with it at all.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
I don't know what that means.

Christians are crap. Being creedal doesn't make us incarnational. We're weak, ineffectual, bourgeois, nice, failing. At best. Historically we're fucking monsters. Creedal monsters. We believe. So what? Franco believed. Efraín Ríos Montt believed. The Lebanese Falange believed. Pope Innocent III believed. Christopher Columbus believed.

Maybe that's why BroJames is brokenly on the right track. The same as the apostle Paul's. We are truly utterly pathetic WITH Christ and that's in very large part BECAUSE we're with Christ. As He warned.
 
Posted by Anselmina (# 3032) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
OK so explain how exactly one rationalises and lives the ethics of Jesus as described in the gospels in the abstract. What does it even look like to live that ethic?

Just off the top of my head I can think of three important ways (cliche, I know, but I really can think of three at the moment) in which Jesus's ethics beat any others around at the time, and still have immense power today, when all our instincts tend to pull in the opposite direction to his teaching.

First, <snip> etc

Adeodatus, I think I love you! And I think you're helping me to love Jesus and his teaching a little bit more.
[Axe murder]
 
Posted by justlooking (# 12079) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:

But great as it is for us to get the teaching straight from the source, the Gospels make it clear that wasn't his main purpose in coming here. That had to do with his suffering, death and resurrection, as he kept saying. To focus on the teaching alone is to miss out on the main point of the Incarnation. Which would be a shame.

Yes. And the shame would be in having no gospel to proclaim.

The best teaching challenge I've heard came from a bishop who asked a roomful of preachers what they would answer if someone asked them "What is this gospel? - what's it got to do with me?" or something along those lines. If the answer began with anything like "Well, to me it means.... the response was "stop right there" because what it means to you is irrelevant, the person asking wants to know what it means for them.

A good answer IMO would be this from Fr. Gerard Hughes who said "There is no place you can be in life or in death where God is not with you and where God does not love you. There is no sin you can commit which is greater than God's love for you" It's probably a quote from his writings but I heard it when he was preaching at a Good Friday service.
 
Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I can see one might think that the gospel ethic is "be nice" ...

It isn't; it's "be good".

And precisely which demands do you find "too great"? Are you, perhaps, looking at some of the obviously hyperbolic sayings about plucking out your eye and suchlike? - because I don't know of any Christian ethicist who has ever said those are to be taken literally (except perhaps St Stupid the Dismembered). No-one has said you have to look at Jesus's ethical teaching and take it superficially or naively.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:

But great as it is for us to get the teaching straight from the source, the Gospels make it clear that wasn't his main purpose in coming here. That had to do with his suffering, death and resurrection, as he kept saying. To focus on the teaching alone is to miss out on the main point of the Incarnation. Which would be a shame.

Yes. And the shame would be in having no gospel to proclaim.

The best teaching challenge I've heard came from a bishop who asked a roomful of preachers what they would answer if someone asked them "What is this gospel? - what's it got to do with me?" or something along those lines. If the answer began with anything like "Well, to me it means.... the response was "stop right there" because what it means to you is irrelevant, the person asking wants to know what it means for them.

A good answer IMO would be this from Fr. Gerard Hughes who said "There is no place you can be in life or in death where God is not with you and where God does not love you. There is no sin you can commit which is greater than God's love for you" It's probably a quote from his writings but I heard it when he was preaching at a Good Friday service.

And what would that love look like for the person asking?
 
Posted by hatless (# 3365) on :
 
It's not really ethics, the teaching of Jesus. It has ethical consequences, about which we can disagree, but the Lost Coin? Is that ethics? The Prodigal Son? The Workers in the Vineyard? (I really hope that's not ethics.)

A lot of the 'teaching' isn't really teaching. There's nothing there to make notes about, but lots that stimulates - the style of Jesus, healings and conversations, stories, encounters, and a lot of stuff that is entirely contextual.

I would describe the Lost Coin, for example, as a story that challenged its hearers to see God, themselves and each other, and the times in which they lived, with a different lighting. It can do something similar for us today.

And if it's about God and us, then that can be expressed in terms of Jesus' relationship to God, and we can say, if we choose, that Jesus is the Son of God in whom the Father was reconciling the world to himself. But I think there's a one way valve in there. We can look at Jesus and draw the diagram of Jesus, God and us, but that diagram (the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.) is a commentary on Jesus. It's not legitimate to work the other way round and say that Jesus came 'in order to ..' this or that. His example isn't important because he was God. His life is important, attractive, compelling because it self-authenticatingly is, and we express that by our theologies; we move from Jesus to theology. We should not, or we should only with great care, move from theology to Jesus.

Or so I think I think.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
I like it.


I regret my obscenity above, in some peoples' minds, including part of mine, it invalidates anything one has to say. It is out of inarticulacy and the desire to shock, as in the milder profanity before it.

What I want is to be as fully incarnational as possible and not use the incarnation as an excuse NOT to be.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I can see one might think that the gospel ethic is "be nice" ...

It isn't; it's "be good".

And precisely which demands do you find "too great"? Are you, perhaps, looking at some of the obviously hyperbolic sayings about plucking out your eye and suchlike? - because I don't know of any Christian ethicist who has ever said those are to be taken literally (except perhaps St Stupid the Dismembered). No-one has said you have to look at Jesus's ethical teaching and take it superficially or naively.

Oh, well I dunno - just the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the plain, the words from the cross, the six woes of Matthew and the eight woes of Luke (or is it the other way around?), almost all of the parables... and yeah, the stuff about dismembering oneself.

How do you get "be good" from those? What does "being good" even consist of?

It isn't like the common understanding of Greek ethics where it was just the thing that "all right-thinking Greeks would do" - and let's not forget enjoying the boys at the baths, eh Socrates - which fairly clearly meant nothing, but at least was something to argue about.

As an ethical code, without the supernatural stuff, the New Testament has nothing, zip, no way to tell good actions from bad ones.
 
Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
As an ethical code, without the supernatural stuff, the New Testament has nothing, zip, no way to tell good actions from bad ones.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Inasmuch as you did not do this (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc.) you did not do it to me.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

If you say "raca" to your brother, you are in danger of hellfire.

He who divorces his wife makes her an adultress.

-----

I'd say that's more than nothing nada zip.
 
Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :
 
Well, let's start with the basics. Is murder bad only because God tells us not to do it, or is it bad for some other reason? If you can say that it's not only because God says so, then you have already admitted that there are bases for ethical behaviour - some ethical behaviour, at least - other than "God says so".

If now we can admit that refraining from murder is, in some primordial sense, "good", then sure, all sorts of other questions open up. Suppose for example I really, really want to kill someone: then I can ask, what counts as murder? Is there some way I can get an "out" here?

What Jesus does, partly, is to take a lot of ethical raw material he's inherited, and to talk about definitions, ranges of applicability, and how far you should go. (His answers often boiling down to "tighter than you thought", "wider than you thought", and "further than you thought", respectively.)

So, for example, I'm told I can't have sex with that woman - can I just objectify her a bit? No you can't. I know I have to help strangers, but do I really have to help that smelly foreigner? Yes you do. This person keeps annoying me, and I know I should keep forgiving him, but I have a number in my head.... Forget it.

It may be difficult to do - it would scarcely be worthwhile preserving if it wasn't - but I honestly can't see why it's difficult to understand that these things are about being "good", rather than about winning Scooby snacks from God.

[cross-posted with mousethief]

[ 06. April 2017, 14:18: Message edited by: Adeodatus ]
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Inasmuch as you did not do this (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc.) you did not do it to me.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

If you say "raca" to your brother, you are in danger of hellfire.

He who divorces his wife makes her an adultress.

-----

I'd say that's more than nothing nada zip.

OK, so show me someone who believes in the New Testament as an ethical code who doesn't believe in divorce, or not calling people names.

If that's the code, then clearly nobody is living it.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
Well, let's start with the basics. Is murder bad only because God tells us not to do it, or is it bad for some other reason? If you can say that it's not only because God says so, then you have already admitted that there are bases for ethical behaviour - some ethical behaviour, at least - other than "God says so".


For sure, my problem is that I can't see how you are getting a useful code from the NT which amounts to "be good". I am perfectly happy to believe that the NT has some weight beyond that x behaviour is good because "God says so".

Even your examples of "don't murder" don't really work. Who defines what murder is? How does one determine when killing is appropriate?

The NT teaching in the abstract doesn't help with these detailed and real questions of how to live the ethics. Even if they are as basic as you suggest.

quote:
It may be difficult to do - it would scarcely be worthwhile preserving if it wasn't - but I honestly can't see why it's difficult to understand that these things are about being "good", rather than about winning Scooby snacks from God.

Right, but that's not really the point I'm arguing. My main point is that you're arguing that there is some kind of useful ethic that can be extracted from the NT, but you're not explaining how you intend to determine the wheat from the dross or how you actually live sayings - which are clearly impossible.

Without some kind of context "love your enemies" means nothing. Or everything.

[ 06. April 2017, 14:27: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]
 
Posted by quetzalcoatl (# 16740) on :
 
This is hitting up against the problems with any system of morality, which claims to be objective or absolute. They tend to start fraying at the edges, for example, killing might be considered the right thing to do in some circumstances, e.g. self-defence, war.

I don't see how morality can be anchored in an objective way really, whatever the provenance. If text X says 'don't do Y', so what? I am not bound by that, unless I agree to be.

Hence, the development of relativism, postmodernism, situational ethics, and so on.

Incidentally, using 'murder' is cheating, since it already contains a negative connotation. Thus soldiers don't murder in battle (normally).

[ 06. April 2017, 14:50: Message edited by: quetzalcoatl ]
 
Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :
 
Some ethical principles - e.g. "don't murder" should be self-evident. Honestly, if you don't think they are, you have a serious problem. The art of ethics is partly about extrapolating to the less self-evident, and sometimes from the less self-evident to the surprising, which is one of the things Jesus excelled at.

What ethics need not be about is going to egregious lengths to explain itself. Yes, you should be able to see the working-out, the progress from one step to another. But ethics need not get itself into the corner where the only answer to the 107th "why?" is "Because I (or God) bloody say so!" There will always be a "try it and see" element to ethics, a choice. (Who was it said "I set before you life and death, blessings and curses"? Oh yeah....) You don't have to behave like this - the universe is unlikely to vanish into a big black hole if you don't - but life will be better if you do, and humankind will thrive if you do. You can always argue that "I" am worse off under Jesus's ethics because it inconveniences me to love my enemies, but the argument is that on balance and ultimately, humankind and "I" will actually be better off. It will be a better world we live in.

Do you want me to say it's a gamble? Okay, it's a gamble. But I'd put good money on it.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
Some ethical principles - e.g. "don't murder" should be self-evident. Honestly, if you don't think they are, you have a serious problem. The art of ethics is partly about extrapolating to the less self-evident, and sometimes from the less self-evident to the surprising, which is one of the things Jesus excelled at.

Riiiight, way to go at not answering the question.

I'm now doubting that you've spent any time at all considering ethics outwith of your Christian mindset.
 
Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
[QUOTE]I'm now doubting that you've spent any time at all considering ethics outwith of your Christian mindset.

If what I've written here leads you to think that, I think you should probably read it again.
 
Posted by quetzalcoatl (# 16740) on :
 
Surely, it's not whether 'don't murder' is self-evident, since 'murder' already contains a prohibitive sense, but 'don't kill'. I suppose for some people it is, but not for others. In fact, killing can be viewed as highly patriotic (and of course, not murder).
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
If what I've written here leads you to think that, I think you should probably read it again.

You just said that there was something wrong with me if I questioned the ethic "Do not murder". Plenty of ethical frameworks have more explanation as to what is or isn't ethical killing than the New Testament.

But if it is so all-pervasive, how does it work as a distinctive ethic anyway? We all know murder is bad, according to you, so what do you need the NT for?

You keep insisting that there is a NT ethic that can be gotten even if the supernatural is rejected but then spectacularly failing at articulating what that actually is. Or how exactly to use the NT in that way.
 
Posted by quetzalcoatl (# 16740) on :
 
Well, I don't have any enemies. I doubt that this was achieved via Christian ethics, to be absolutely candid.
 
Posted by Garden Hermit (# 109) on :
 
65 years of Christian Teaching and its still an Enigma. But I suppose thats to be accepted for one poor Human Brain. I just can't believe that Life was meant to be working hard for money, to spend it on Plastic Tat which is skipped after a few months, is what its all about.
 
Posted by quetzalcoatl (# 16740) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Garden Hermit:
65 years of Christian Teaching and its still an Enigma. But I suppose thats to be accepted for one poor Human Brain. I just can't believe that Life was meant to be working hard for money, to spend it on Plastic Tat which is skipped after a few months, is what its all about.

Well, that's a false dichotomy. There are plenty of ways of life which are neither Christian nor full of plastic tat.
 
Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
OK, so show me someone who believes in the New Testament as an ethical code who doesn't believe in divorce, or not calling people names.

If that's the code, then clearly nobody is living it.

This, children, is what is known as "moving the goalposts."
 
Posted by Marvin the Martian (# 4360) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
But if it is so all-pervasive, how does it work as a distinctive ethic anyway? We all know murder is bad, according to you, so what do you need the NT for?

Why must it be distinctive? If many other ethical frameworks have come to the same conclusion then surely that in itself points to that conclusion being the right answer?

But, as Adeodatus said on the previous page, it is pretty distinctive in terms of how far it goes. "Love everyone" means "love everyone". "Don't kill" means "Don't kill anyone, ever, for any reason, period". That's pretty distinctive, I'd say.
 
Posted by justlooking (# 12079) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:

But great as it is for us to get the teaching straight from the source, the Gospels make it clear that wasn't his main purpose in coming here. That had to do with his suffering, death and resurrection, as he kept saying. To focus on the teaching alone is to miss out on the main point of the Incarnation. Which would be a shame.

Yes. And the shame would be in having no gospel to proclaim.

The best teaching challenge I've heard came from a bishop who asked a roomful of preachers what they would answer if someone asked them "What is this gospel? - what's it got to do with me?" or something along those lines. If the answer began with anything like "Well, to me it means.... the response was "stop right there" because what it means to you is irrelevant, the person asking wants to know what it means for them.

A good answer IMO would be this from Fr. Gerard Hughes who said "There is no place you can be in life or in death where God is not with you and where God does not love you. There is no sin you can commit which is greater than God's love for you" It's probably a quote from his writings but I heard it when he was preaching at a Good Friday service.

And what would that love look like for the person asking?
That's always a good question for the Church although the ultimate answer is 'God knows'. No-one can see inside another's life and know what they think and feel or what they have experienced. The business of the Church is to worship God, proclaim the gospel and endeavour to live the gospel. We can do our best to understand but how the gospel is received is beyond our control. 'Let God do God's work' is a good maxim. A problem with seeing the gospel of Christ as nothing more than ethical teaching is that it can become something to be possessed and controlled.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
This, children, is what is known as "moving the goalposts."

Not it isn't. What you've described is a few phrases which do not encompass all of the teaching in the New Testament, and even if it did nobody who says they treat the NT as ethics to live by actually live by the things you've quoted.

You've dangled a couple of lines in the air and said "what about this" and don't like the idea that nobody would take those particular lines as a basis for their ethics.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:


But, as Adeodatus said on the previous page, it is pretty distinctive in terms of how far it goes. "Love everyone" means "love everyone". "Don't kill" means "Don't kill anyone, ever, for any reason, period". That's pretty distinctive, I'd say.

Bullshit. Have you read the New Testament? Have you seen the wide variety of opinions created by those who have read it and sought to understand the idea of "not killing"? Hint: not everyone who takes the gospels as being authoritiative believes it therefore means not to kill anyone, ever, for any reason, period.

That's one of the craziest things I've ever heard.
 
Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
What you've described is a few phrases which do not encompass all of the teaching in the New Testament,

That's not at all what you said. If you had said this, it wouldn't have been moving the goalposts. Objection overruled.

quote:
and even if it did nobody who says they treat the NT as ethics to live by actually live by the things you've quoted.
Irrelevant to the question asked.

quote:
You've dangled a couple of lines in the air and said "what about this" and don't like the idea that nobody would take those particular lines as a basis for their ethics.
You said there was nothing. I showed there was, in fact, something. You didn't say anything about how many people like the something that's there. This is, indeed, moving the goalposts: bringing up qualifications that weren't mentioned before.
 
Posted by Doc Tor (# 9748) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Hint: not everyone who takes the gospels as being authoritiative believes it therefore means not to kill anyone, ever, for any reason, period.

That's one of the craziest things I've ever heard.

Not everyone who etc does. It doesn't take away from the fact that they should.

There's some disagreement as to whether the Early Church Fathers (pre-Constantine) all preached pacifism. But at the very least, it's a strong strand of early Christian belief.

This, from Ron Sider:
quote:
... there is not a single extant Christian author before Constantine who says killing or joining the military by Christians is ever legitimate. Whenever our extant texts mention killing—whether in abortion, capital punishment, or war—they always say Christians must not do that.
Hang out the flags (red ones, of course). I'm agreeing with Marvin.
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:

There's some disagreement as to whether the Early Church Fathers (pre-Constantine) all preached pacifism. But at the very least, it's a strong strand of early Christian belief.

Yes. But (a) it isn't consistently held by everyone (b) it isn't consistent with the OT and (c) you can't get it from the NT without reading it with a particular context and framework.

As it happens, I'm a pacifist. But that's not because I read the NT and thought "oh, that's obvious, we shouldn't kill anyone ever in any circumstances".

[ 06. April 2017, 16:51: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
Well, I don't have any enemies. I doubt that this was achieved via Christian ethics, to be absolutely candid.

Wow. How do you not have enemies?

Trust me, that enviable state has nothing to do with Christian ethics, or any ethics. Ethics tend to make you enemies, not take them away.
 
Posted by Doc Tor (# 9748) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Yes. But (a) it isn't consistently held by everyone

It is before Constantine. And that's something that's very difficult to get around.

If you think the early Church was wrong on this, say so, but you can't sweep that they thought that 'no killing under any circumstance' was Christian doctrine, under the the carpet.
 
Posted by lilBuddha (# 14333) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
Just off the top of my head I can think of three important ways (cliche, I know, but I really can think of three at the moment) in which Jesus's ethics beat any others around at the time,

lilBuddha scratches head Yeah, tough one.

[ 06. April 2017, 17:05: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
It is before Constantine. And that's something that's very difficult to get around.

If you think the early Church was wrong on this, say so, but you can't sweep that they thought that 'no killing under any circumstance' was Christian doctrine, under the the carpet.

Thanks, I don't need lessons in the history of Christian pacifism. It's an irrelevant point as to whether one can deduce pacifism from taking the NT as a non-supernatural ethical tome.
 
Posted by mark_in_manchester (# 15978) on :
 
quote:
but I honestly can't see why it's difficult to understand that these things are about being "good", rather than about winning Scooby snacks from God.
If you don't mind me saying so, it's a gross mis-characterisation of (my) belief to say that insistence on belief in God as standing behind 'good' is about the scooby snacks.

We agree about the 'Jesus takes tough thing and makes it tougher' angle. I trust Jesus to define the 'good' - that's my faith, nothing about reward apart from that inherent in sometimes not falling into a mess of sin (see my sig). You seem to have faith in Him too, whilst wanting to think the 'good' invents itself. Well, maybe it does, but if it does it is still as unsophisticated as calling it God.
Snacks, no snacks, I don't care.
 
Posted by Og, King of Bashan (# 9562) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
I agree with you Adeodatus. I think the idea that Christian teaching is that heaven is a reward for good behaviour is one of the most persistent distortions of Christian belief both within and outside the Church that we have to contend with, along with the closely related idea that Christian faith is primarily about ethics.

I could not agree more.

I do not think it is incongruous to both reject a "properly believing and / or acting people go to Heaven and the rest go to hell" vision of the gospel, and to look for something more than ethical teaching in the gospel.

In fact, given that Jesus clearly is interested in Humanity's relationship with God, not just one person's relationship with others, and given that we know these teachings because they were first written down by religious communities, it seems really odd (and a bit cowardly) to simply want to appropriate the ethical bits without investigating the other bits as well. Progressive Christians should be empowering people to really wrestle with what it means for Jesus to be the way the truth and the life and find ways that that might not be in opposition to a pluralist outlook, rather than pretending that that part isn't in there at all.
 
Posted by Doc Tor (# 9748) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
It is before Constantine. And that's something that's very difficult to get around.

If you think the early Church was wrong on this, say so, but you can't sweep that they thought that 'no killing under any circumstance' was Christian doctrine, under the the carpet.

Thanks, I don't need lessons in the history of Christian pacifism. It's an irrelevant point as to whether one can deduce pacifism from taking the NT as a non-supernatural ethical tome.
Well, in a post you made an hour earlier, you said it was one of the craziest things you'd ever heard. So I made the assumption, based on what you said, that you'd never heard Marvin's entirely reasonable and historically accurate point being made before.

My bad.

( [Roll Eyes] )
 
Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
Jesus's teaching on hypocrisy, about which, you'll recall, he had fairly strong views.

Very rabbinic
 
Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
No, because those teachings were not original - lots of other pharisees said similar things.

How strange that the people who heard Jesus speak disagree with you.
And who might they be? And where did they state this view?
 
Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
No, because those teachings were not original - lots of other pharisees said similar things.

About the poor, women, children, disabled, afflicted, sick, ethnic minorities, sinners?

Where?

Here
 
Posted by Schroedinger's cat (# 64) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
Well, I don't have any enemies. I doubt that this was achieved via Christian ethics, to be absolutely candid.

Wow. How do you not have enemies?

Trust me, that enviable state has nothing to do with Christian ethics, or any ethics. Ethics tend to make you enemies, not take them away.

The only way you don't have any enemies is to be so fawningly flexible you are meaningless. If you have ethics, someone will find a fundamental disagreement with you.

I'm so ethical, I don't have any friends.
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
Heheheheheh.

Actually, I can imagine a world in which everybody was so reasonable as to be able to disagree with each other without turning it into enmity.

Unfortunately, that world is not this.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
No, because those teachings were not original - lots of other pharisees said similar things.

About the poor, women, children, disabled, afflicted, sick, ethnic minorities, sinners?

Where?

Here
Where?
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:

But great as it is for us to get the teaching straight from the source, the Gospels make it clear that wasn't his main purpose in coming here. That had to do with his suffering, death and resurrection, as he kept saying. To focus on the teaching alone is to miss out on the main point of the Incarnation. Which would be a shame.

Yes. And the shame would be in having no gospel to proclaim.

The best teaching challenge I've heard came from a bishop who asked a roomful of preachers what they would answer if someone asked them "What is this gospel? - what's it got to do with me?" or something along those lines. If the answer began with anything like "Well, to me it means.... the response was "stop right there" because what it means to you is irrelevant, the person asking wants to know what it means for them.

A good answer IMO would be this from Fr. Gerard Hughes who said "There is no place you can be in life or in death where God is not with you and where God does not love you. There is no sin you can commit which is greater than God's love for you" It's probably a quote from his writings but I heard it when he was preaching at a Good Friday service.

And what would that love look like for the person asking?
That's always a good question for the Church although the ultimate answer is 'God knows'. No-one can see inside another's life and know what they think and feel or what they have experienced. The business of the Church is to worship God, proclaim the gospel and endeavour to live the gospel. We can do our best to understand but how the gospel is received is beyond our control. 'Let God do God's work' is a good maxim. A problem with seeing the gospel of Christ as nothing more than ethical teaching is that it can become something to be possessed and controlled.
Why don't we ask them?
 
Posted by justlooking (# 12079) on :
 
The Church does ask, directly and indirectly and many activities of the Church are based in responding to what it hears. Or at least to what it expects to hear or wants to hear. There is a huge difference between telling the good news and thinking we are the good news. If all we have is ethical teaching and all we do, all we believe in, is based on this then the Church becomes a social club, a place of cultural and historic interest, a dispenser of charity, a branch of the social services, and nothing more.
 
Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
If all we have is ethical teaching and all we do, all we believe in, is based on this then the Church becomes a social club, a place of cultural and historic interest, a dispenser of charity, a branch of the social services, and nothing more.

I suspect that many people in the wider culture would prefer churches to see themselves primarily in this light. Others would argue that many churches are already more or less like this.
 
Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
No, because those teachings were not original - lots of other pharisees said similar things.

About the poor, women, children, disabled, afflicted, sick, ethnic minorities, sinners?

Where?

Here
Where?
Click on the link and cursor about 1/2 way down.
 
Posted by Freddy (# 365) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
No, because those teachings were not original - lots of other pharisees said similar things.

How strange that the people who heard Jesus speak disagree with you.
I disagree also, but there is an important point here.

Lots of terrific, true, and enlightening things are said by lots of people. I have no trouble accepting that much of what Jesus taught had been said before. I also love the sayings of the Dalai Lame, Tich Nat Hahn, the Pope and any number Christian writers.

The thing that sets Jesus apart is the story, and therefore the source of the information. The things He taught are not just good ideas for better living, but the authoritative wisdom of God Himself.

It would be as if in 1492 Columbus turned up with amazing information about a strange new world. The obvious question is "How does he know about this?"

Without the story, and therefore the identity of the source of information, it is all speculation.
 
Posted by no prophet's flag is set so... (# 15560) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
If all we have is ethical teaching and all we do, all we believe in, is based on this then the Church becomes a social club, a place of cultural and historic interest, a dispenser of charity, a branch of the social services, and nothing more.

This is bad why?

God knows that if Christians and allegedly Christian nations followed ethical teachings, provided socialization, charity, social services, in some cultural-historical context, we might actually hit a wee bit closer to the mark.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
Being creedal says NOTHING about that. As Oscar Romero, Jerzy Popiełuszko and Janani Luwum all prove. And Robert Mugabe for that matter.
 
Posted by justlooking (# 12079) on :
 
I never said it was'bad'. There is nothing bad about values and practices derived from Christian teaching. But these are not a substitute for Christian faith.
 
Posted by mark_in_manchester (# 15978) on :
 
Aaaaaaaargggghhhh.

quote:
we might actually hit a wee bit closer to the mark.
If I may paraphrase you to explain my frustration;

"If only we could remove the mark and just stick to ethical teachings, we could hit a wee bit closer to the mark".
 
Posted by Enoch (# 14322) on :
 
Nobody's really answered my first (or for that matter my second) question on 4th/5th April depending on which timezone you are in. Meanwhile, though here's another and it's related to that one.

4. How is 'wouldn't it be so much better if everybody was much nicer and more virtuous than they are at the moment' earth-changing good news?
 
Posted by Nick Tamen (# 15164) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
If all we have is ethical teaching and all we do, all we believe in, is based on this then the Church becomes a social club, a place of cultural and historic interest, a dispenser of charity, a branch of the social services, and nothing more.

This is bad why?
Because it's incomplete. Because Jesus taught about more than ethics, and taking his ethical teachings as a sufficient gospel is a failure to take all of his teaching seriously, much less follow it.

It's not that it would be bad if we all lived according to the ethical framework Jesus taught. That would be wonderful. But if that's all we did, we still wouldn't be living the gospel, and we'd still miss the mark.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
I never said it was'bad'. There is nothing bad about values and practices derived from Christian teaching. But these are not a substitute for Christian faith.

Show me.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
quote:
Originally posted by justlooking:
If all we have is ethical teaching and all we do, all we believe in, is based on this then the Church becomes a social club, a place of cultural and historic interest, a dispenser of charity, a branch of the social services, and nothing more.

This is bad why?
Because it's incomplete. Because Jesus taught about more than ethics, and taking his ethical teachings as a sufficient gospel is a failure to take all of his teaching seriously, much less follow it.

It's not that it would be bad if we all lived according to the ethical framework Jesus taught. That would be wonderful. But if that's all we did, we still wouldn't be living the gospel, and we'd still miss the mark.

Show me.
 
Posted by lilBuddha (# 14333) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mark_in_manchester:
Aaaaaaaargggghhhh.

quote:
we might actually hit a wee bit closer to the mark.
If I may paraphrase you to explain my frustration;

"If only we could remove the mark and just stick to ethical teachings, we could hit a wee bit closer to the mark".

Given that Christianity has not proven itself to be any better getting the behaviour Jesus wanted, why does it matter?
I'll take a world that shares my ethics and morals but not my source of them over the reverse any day of the week.
 
Posted by Nick Tamen (# 15164) on :
 
Show you what, Martin?

Sorry, but you don't have time or energy today to try to figure out exactly what, based on my post, you're asking to be shown.
 
Posted by hatless (# 3365) on :
 
I think the teaching / creeds contrast is misleading. Jesus' so called teaching is largely intended to provoke thought and self-examination, waking up and changing direction. Sight and hearing for the blind and deaf. An encounter with God in the midst of life.

That's why we talk about Jesus in theological terms like saviour, incarnation, Trinity, etc. Jesus leads rapidly to a personal and dynamic encounter with God. But we give theology a bad name if we work from theology to Jesus.

If we say we should love our enemies because Jesus said so and Jesus is God and God is never wrong - well, we're idiots. Jesus is God because he teaches and demonstrates the love of enemies. Asking people to first buy the doctrines about the person of Christ so that you can then hit them with the small print about how to live is foolish, unworthy and backwards.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
Show you what, Martin?

Sorry, but you don't have time or energy today to try to figure out exactly what, based on my post, you're asking to be shown.

I do.
 
Posted by mark_in_manchester (# 15978) on :
 
quote:
Given that Christianity has not proven itself to be any better getting the behaviour Jesus wanted, why does it matter?

Well, that question only makes some sense if you presuppose the outcome (Jesus' vision of moral behaviour) as your ultimate good - your God. In that case perhaps any means necessary to that end are as good as any other, and means which have shown themselves variable, like historic Christianity, might well be viewed as worth leaving behind.

From a conventional Christian standpoint (well, as far as Dooyeweerd at least goes, but that's another can of worms) moral behaviour is part of the created order, and so making it your God is a form of idolatry. With this in mind we might not expect it to go well.
 
Posted by Nick Tamen (# 15164) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
Show you what, Martin?

Sorry, but you don't have time or energy today to try to figure out exactly what, based on my post, you're asking to be shown.

I do.
Sorry for the typo. It should have been "I don't have time or energy today...."
 
Posted by lilBuddha (# 14333) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mark_in_manchester:

From a conventional Christian standpoint (well, as far as Dooyeweerd at least goes, but that's another can of worms) moral behaviour is part of the created order, and so making it your God is a form of idolatry. With this in mind we might not expect it to go well.

[Confused] One should do good and behave in a moral and ethical manner because it is right and one feels the desire to do right, no worship involved.
If you are saying none of that is worth anything without acknowledging God, then he isn't worth the pillar of salt he turns one into.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
Show you what, Martin?

Sorry, but you don't have time or energy today to try to figure out exactly what, based on my post, you're asking to be shown.

I do.
Sorry for the typo. It should have been "I don't have time or energy today...."
I should have said, 'Obviously.'.
 
Posted by mark_in_manchester (# 15978) on :
 
quote:
[Confused] One should do good and behave in a moral and ethical manner because it is right and one feels the desire to do right, no worship involved
As I understand 'worship' (and I find this is a more useful, technical definition than 'a time of worship' - that is, hymn singing) it means the act of attributing to something (or someone) , ultimate and un-caused : truth, goodness, justice, beauty - I guess we could go on.

That's why I find a useful distinction between doing good because God my creator (about whom I can find out all sorts of other things; whose son made his character incarnate and therefore visible; who - though I must be so careful, discerning and ready to be challenged and corrected - inspires me by his spirit) wills it; and doing good because some eternal but unknowable principle of goodness requires it.

The latter involves worship, with or without hymn singing. Roy Clouser is good on this, FWIW. Just as one or two obvious examples of pitfalls - is this 'good' utilitarian; can its end justify its means?

Christians can (do, and have done) argue about the same questions, of course. But trying to get rid of 'God' does nothing to remove the questions and pitfalls, and (from a Christian's point of view) makes them more obscure, confusing and likely to lead to error. YMMV, respectfully, of course.
 
Posted by lilBuddha (# 14333) on :
 
Adding God hasn't done anything to remove the pitfalls either, from what I can observe and history records.
I respect Jesus' teachings and the world would be a better place if all Christians did so as well. I do not think they are as unique as you seem to though and do not see belief in Him as something that, in itself, creates beneficial behaviour.
 
Posted by mark_in_manchester (# 15978) on :
 
If you don't mind me saying so, those statements also make sense when 'beneficial behaviour' is one's God.

I'm not claiming that Jesus is the best route to that behaviour, or that his followers always (or, in fact, ever) achieve it. But this is not a problem for me because Jesus is not a front for my genuine God, beneficial behaviour.

Instead, I have the Spirit, church tradition, and a book to deal with. The book has things in it like 'faith without works is dead' and 'the fruit of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control' - which suggest we may sometimes end up somewhere similar, but for different reasons.
 
Posted by lilBuddha (# 14333) on :
 
You appear to be saying faith without works is dead. Something I agree that works with Jesus' teaching.
But you also seem to be implying that works without faith (in God) are also dead.
ISTM, this is anti-antithetical to the whole Jesus' teachings.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
I am saying that Jesus is the best route to that behaviour, that the ethics of Jesus were and remain the greatest of all time. The ethics of Christians are a lesser thing altogether even though the best of Western ethics, derived with them, are at least the first among equals and I feel are the best, or rather the worst apart from all others.

And absolutely lilBuddha.

[ 09. April 2017, 16:42: Message edited by: Martin60 ]
 
Posted by mark_in_manchester (# 15978) on :
 
That makes sense to me, Martin.

quote:
But you also seem to be implying that works without faith (in God) are also dead.
Not quite - sorry I have not been sufficiently clear. I have been trying to say that works without God are a new faith of their own, and that this is a problem.

For instance - what does this new faith make of failure? It seems to be a deal, of sorts - as we have been debating historic Christianity's failure to bring about 'good behaviour', and this failure has caused enough opprobrium to develop amongst some, to suggest that Christianity might be well-left behind. Fair enough, if the new faith demands success.

But historic Christianity *expects* failure, in the face it's own impossible absolute standards. In this ISTM entirely realistic - it fits with my experience of being human. It expects failure, and suggests (OK, I am being too soft - requires) repentance. But even then, it expects failure again.

As a religion which expects failure, and offers the possibility of divine grace which comes from outside my limited self - it fits with my self-acknowledged unreliability. A new faith of doing good (whose good?) which is judged (by whom?) on successful outcomes and requires resources drawn from only within me - I've tried it, and I know I can't do it.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
Can't disagree eminem [Smile]

Christianity is certainly THE religion for losers. As it postures otherwise.
 
Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :
 
Historically it sold itself, at least for a time, as the religion for slaves and women and other societal cast-offs.
 
Posted by Sioni Sais (# 5713) on :
 
Christianity isn't for losers, it's for the lost. Until people realise that is where they are, it isn't for them.
 
Posted by lilBuddha (# 14333) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mark_in_manchester:
I have been trying to say that works without God are a new faith of their own,

I think this is an inaccurate way of phrasing things. Sort of like when Christians argue with atheists and claim they have a belief system.
One can have a set of morals and ethics without it being a "faith".
If your faith in God helps you maintain your way, more power to you.
Assuming everyone else needs this is not on.
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Historically it sold itself, at least for a time, as the religion for slaves and women and other societal cast-offs.

quote:
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. - Abraham Lincoln

 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
I do think works without faith are dead, at least in terms of what they do to my spiritual life. Taking an example--

It's certainly handy for everybody if I, for any reason, decide to start picking up all the blowing trash on the side of the highway. The locals will be glad of the work, and they won't give a crap whether I'm doing it as an outworking of faith or whether I'm doing it as an ego trip (see how awesome I am!) or even as some horrendous meld of OCD and spiritual "obligation." The result in their eyes is the same--a cleaner view.

But the difference to my spiritual life is pretty big. If I'm doing it because that's just how I roll (now that I'm in Christ) there will be no harm, and probably some good, as I grow in faith and life. If I'm doing it to impress people (like certain highway signs around here are designed to do) then my spiritual growth and social attitudes will suffer--you can smell the pride (bad sense) a mile away. If I'm doing it because of some mental/psych/spiritual bondage, that too will just add to the harm to me and possibly those close to me (who deal with the fall-out of my obsession, however small or great).

Yeah, works without faith are dead. But the world we live in will gladly settle, if only we don't have to be the ones carrying them out--or living with the carrier-outer-of.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
If I have not creedal orthodoxy then I am become as nothing?
 
Posted by mr cheesy (# 3330) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:


Yeah, works without faith are dead. But the world we live in will gladly settle, if only we don't have to be the ones carrying them out--or living with the carrier-outer-of.

I don't understand the extreme positions you offer. There must be middle ground where people don't do things out of faith, however we're describing it, but also aren't doing it to impress anyone.

I recently heard of a local politician who was seen picking up litter.

The unusual part of the story is that he wasn't doing it as a group, hadn't invited the local news to cover him doing the work, apparently was doing the work for no other reason than that it was his constituency and someone needed to do it. Nobody would have known except that someone else, who happened to know him, was out for a walk and came across him.

Now, we might say that he was only working because he wanted to be able to say at the next election how much he cared for the place where he had been elected. We might say that he has a religious faith which means that he feels compelled into this kind of civic action.

Or, we might say that it is at least possible that the guy actually cares about the place where he lives and does things whether or not anyone notices. Because someone has to.

[ 10. April 2017, 11:26: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
Christianity isn't for losers, it's for the lost. Until people realise that is where they are, it isn't for them.

Everyone's lost. We Christians think we're found, that we have all the answers, that we are transformed in to buckets of light. Not the same old losers barely getting through the day.
 
Posted by Sioni Sais (# 5713) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
Christianity isn't for losers, it's for the lost. Until people realise that is where they are, it isn't for them.

Everyone's lost. We Christians think we're found, that we have all the answers, that we are transformed in to buckets of light. Not the same old losers barely getting through the day.
No, no, no. We don't have all the answers. All we have is the starting point from which we may find them.
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I don't understand the extreme positions you offer. There must be middle ground where people don't do things out of faith, however we're describing it, but also aren't doing it to impress anyone.



I was responding to another post and specifically focusing on perversions of works-only, not dealing with the huge issue of how people-in-general are motivated to do works-in-general.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
Christianity isn't for losers, it's for the lost. Until people realise that is where they are, it isn't for them.

Everyone's lost. We Christians think we're found, that we have all the answers, that we are transformed in to buckets of light. Not the same old losers barely getting through the day.
No, no, no. We don't have all the answers. All we have is the starting point from which we may find them.
I know Jesus is the answer. It's the questions I don't understand.
 
Posted by Chorister (# 473) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
If we say we should love our enemies because Jesus said so and Jesus is God and God is never wrong - well, we're idiots. Jesus is God because he teaches and demonstrates the love of enemies. Asking people to first buy the doctrines about the person of Christ so that you can then hit them with the small print about how to live is foolish, unworthy and backwards.

This I like. And it fits rather well with other biblical examples of paradox. If OT doctrines are turned on their heads, then it should not be surprising that modern day doctrines might need doing so, too.
 
Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
Christianity isn't for losers, it's for the lost. Until people realise that is where they are, it isn't for them.

Everyone's lost. We Christians think we're found, that we have all the answers, that we are transformed in to buckets of light. Not the same old losers barely getting through the day.
We do? I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to speak for yourself.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
Yo loss yo mojo? Most mild mannered mousethief! You all right?

I'm afraid I can no more speak for myself than I can for you mousethief. It's how I encounter my evangelical siblings. Full of claims of transformation which are waiting for anybody who will say the sinner's prayer. I was just using inclusive language, not distancing myself.
 
Posted by Chorister (# 473) on :
 
None other than St. Paul seemed to think that living a good and right life was an almighty struggle. Especially in his own strength.
 
Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Yo loss yo mojo? Most mild mannered mousethief! You all right?

You're claiming to speak, however obscurely, on behalf of a lot of people, which is beyond your remit.
 
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
 
If you say so.
 


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