Stories to live by

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Re: Stories to live by

Postby Bob » Thu Dec 15, 2011 8:12 pm

Mo_ wrote:If everything that you and Bob have said is well worth thinking true, then you would be far better off reading a pseudo-science self-help book from a pharmacy bookshelf, beside the romance novels. That, or Harry Potter. Again, choose your text and I'll show you why.

This is the second time you have written this kind of comment but you never actually come across with what your contention is. What gets on your nerves so much that you just can't ignore what I or Alyoshka have written, but makes you react in this way?

Where are you coming from? A Christian background or an Atheist/Agnostic approach? What can you say that isn't just a butt-in to show you're around?

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Re: Stories to live by

Postby Bob » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:17 pm

alyoshka wrote:So maybe that's my point: this relatability (or chord-touching) is not guaranteed. For instance, certain myths that take up the matter of life and death, such as the Illiad where death is the end and the goal of life is to make it brilliant, if short, so that one will live forever in memory, might not touch a chord with a Christian, who believes in resurrection and won't see the point of such a life. A Christian won't be able to get into Achilles' story in the same way as an early Greek, even though they share the same base-line human condition as the Greek. The Christian may find the story relevant, and therefore interesting, but not relatable, or truly chord-striking.

It is not just a matter of making the story "current" either. It's more the fact that the teaching of the story simply does not relate, no matter how relevant it is.

However, I ask myself, why would a Christian want to take on the story in this way, if his own tradition is sufficient? If his idea of heroism differs so, he will take on the image of Christ. And yet, the story of Achilles has inspired people for thousands of years – right through the domination of Christian thought. Why, perhaps because they found a quality in the story of Achilles that you haven't taken into account. I don't assume that the stories will always carry an ethical message which applies to all, but it seems that there is something in the classics which does attract people long after the Greeks of that age have died out.

I understand what you're after with the bard and the personal telling. I do get it. But I also get, as you do too, the need to change with the times. Bards are no longer confined to personal performances or performances to small crowds. The modern bard, if there is to be such a thing, must leverage modern mediums.

The point, it seems to me, is to get the message/story out there, to as many people as possible, in the most relatable way possible. To make stories come to life through mass-media: that is ideal. (Hence the transition from oral to written?...) In this way a bard could relate all persons in the world through a story relatable to all, one capable of carrying the world forward into the future and out of this murky, directionless time. (Just like the Greeks were carried forward into the future by Homer, which arguably realized its teaching through Alexander's immortalizing impact.)

To me it's all about mass-impact. About doing what you are describing on mass. This isn't to say that the time of the bard is over but that the bard must evolve, and find new ways to tell their stories in this technological world, no longer confined to intimate performances but making the power of their performances accessible to all.

Well, first off, I think that the effect I am describing and have experienced is only possible where people can interact and therefore see each other clearly. However, there are people who perform in large auditoriums and combine different media to transport the stories. One who comes to mind is Coleman Barks who performs Rumi poetry with music, Clarissa Pinkola Estés is another who also uses audio recordings to tell her stories. Here in Germany there has been bible-readings performed by actors and enhanced with classical music, although that had more to do with the bible as literature and acting than with story-telling.

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Re: Stories to live by

Postby Duality » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:46 pm

Being like Christ is basically unnatainable, as he is seen as the sinless incarnation of God

people can relate to tragic heroes because they see within them the same faults that they themselves possess, and the inevitably doomed longing to be more than just animals.
"A truth is not necessary, because we negatively are not able to conceive the actual existence of the opposite thereof;but a truth is necessary when we positively are able to apprehend that the negation thereof includes an inevitable contradiction. It is not that that we can see how the opposite comes to be true, but it is that the opposite can not possibly be true." -R.L. Dabney

"Those then who know not wisdom and virtue, and are always busy with gluttony and sensuality, go down and up again as far as the mean; and in this region they move at random throughout life, but they never pass into the true upper world; thither they neither look, nor do they ever find their way, neither are they truly filled with true being, nor do they ever taste of pure and abiding pleasure." -Socrates
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby Bob » Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:00 pm

Duality wrote:Being like Christ is basically unnatainable, as he is seen as the sinless incarnation of God

people can relate to tragic heroes because they see within them the same faults that they themselves possess, and the inevitably doomed longing to be more than just animals.

What Christ are you referring to? The Christ of the later Christian Churches was God seated above, but observing Christ to be the first of many (firstfruit), and reading his story as a vehicle to further our empathy and sensitivity, and thereby refining our culture, could help us. Jesus appears as an enlightened man, but as a man in all of his fragility.

Mark wrote his Gospel as a tragedy with the recurring question, "Who is he?" The answer must be given by the person who hears the question, but one answer is that he is the son of man, the heir of Adam, who spiritually engendered a new humanity. What could he be for you?

People relate to tragic heroes because life is tragic on the surface and they have the curious gift of being able to reflect on this existence, as though from a vantage point out of time. This doesn't seem to be given to all animals.

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Re: Stories to live by

Postby Duality » Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:16 pm

Bob wrote:What Christ are you referring to?

The one described in the Bible, mainly the gospels

I think we naturally tend to reflect on our own existence because existence itself is not enough for us. We see the futility inherent in life and this world, and intuitively feel it is not our natural habitat. Our minds are too superior to be able to thrive in an animalistic pointless world, unlike all other species on the planet. We live; but we create tragic plays and artworks to wallow in our own misery as we do so.
"A truth is not necessary, because we negatively are not able to conceive the actual existence of the opposite thereof;but a truth is necessary when we positively are able to apprehend that the negation thereof includes an inevitable contradiction. It is not that that we can see how the opposite comes to be true, but it is that the opposite can not possibly be true." -R.L. Dabney

"Those then who know not wisdom and virtue, and are always busy with gluttony and sensuality, go down and up again as far as the mean; and in this region they move at random throughout life, but they never pass into the true upper world; thither they neither look, nor do they ever find their way, neither are they truly filled with true being, nor do they ever taste of pure and abiding pleasure." -Socrates
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby von Rivers » Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:35 pm

Bob wrote:This is the second time you have written this kind of comment but you never actually come across with what your contention is. What gets on your nerves so much that you just can't ignore what I or Alyoshka have written, but makes you react in this way?


I'm responding to your thesis (in the OP) that religious texts are "not meant to be believed, but lived" and that they nevertheless represent "substantial ethical codes". You were prompted to say this by reflecting on fundamentalist extremism. (I took your point to be a Robertsonian one, who was just rephrasing Tillich and others).

I had two main points before:

1a. You are doing what many do when caught in a horrible lie or bad position. (E.g., "Ohhhh you thought I was being serious...? Ohhh you thought I meant it literally...?").
1b. If the text is just mythy-type stuff, then you are better-off taking yourself to a bookstore and choosing a new myth---one that has the full breadth of thousands of years of human learning behind it, and which wasn't written by ignorant, barely decended from the tree, tribal overlords.

2. I am sure that you are a highly intelligent, sensible, and caring person. That is why when you read the text, you do not actually think someone should be stoned for fucking the wrong way. But nothing about the text itself taught you this. This is because ideas that are on a par with the idea that someone should be stoned for fucking the wrong way are often entirely justified by the text.
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby alyoshka » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:06 pm

Mo_ wrote:I'm responding to your thesis (in the OP) that religious texts are "not meant to be believed, but lived" and that they nevertheless represent "substantial ethical codes". You were prompted to say this by reflecting on fundamentalist extremism. (I took your point to be a Robertsonian one, who was just rephrasing Tillich and others).

I had two main points before:

1a. You are doing what many do when caught in a horrible lie or bad position. (E.g., "Ohhhh you thought I was being serious...? Ohhh you thought I meant it literally...?").


I don't think Scriptures should be believed in the sense that they happened, that they are historical fact. If that's what "taking them literrally" means then we should not take them literally.

However, I don't see what believing in their historical fact has to do with their representing substantial ethical codes. Or, I don't see why we can't believe that Scriptures represent substantial ethical codes and that they do not represent history. I see no issue there.

Mo_ wrote:1b. If the text is just mythy-type stuff, then you are better-off taking yourself to a bookstore and choosing a new myth---one that has the full breadth of thousands of years of human learning behind it, and which wasn't written by ignorant, barely decended from the tree, tribal overlords.


Did you live back then? Can you really comment on the wisdom of the writers? Don't be so full of yourself thinking that, because you sit here at the receiving end of history, you're in a better position. That's just bullshit. Look around you. Does it look like we've got things figured out?

Mo_ wrote:2. I am sure that you are a highly intelligent, sensible, and caring person. That is why when you read the text, you do not actually think someone should be stoned for fucking the wrong way. But nothing about the text itself taught you this. This is because ideas that are on a par with the idea that someone should be stoned for fucking the wrong way are often entirely justified by the text.


Here is where I would say a literal reading would reveal the truth. Not a reading that takes what is said as historical fact, but one that takes every word seriously.

Jesus took the law literally for instance. Every jot and tittle. And what did he do when faced with an adulteress? Did he cast a stone? No, he understood the law. Those who think it means they can stone someone for "fucking the wrong way" have not taken it literally enough.
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby Bob » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:30 pm

Mo_ wrote:I'm responding to your thesis (in the OP) that religious texts are "not meant to be believed, but lived" and that they nevertheless represent "substantial ethical codes". You were prompted to say this by reflecting on fundamentalist extremism. (I took your point to be a Robertsonian one, who was just rephrasing Tillich and others).

I had two main points before:

1a. You are doing what many do when caught in a horrible lie or bad position. (E.g., "Ohhhh you thought I was being serious...? Ohhh you thought I meant it literally...?").

So you are saying that I, Bob, am caught in a horrible lie or bad position having posited such ideas. Well, I haven't posted that much here despite my long-time friendship with ILP, but I was actually one of the people who tried from the outset to show that we need another look at Christianity and that we can't take the Bible seriously if we take it literally. I also made clear that I find the Bible to be an anthology of religious writings which reveal a development of the theistic idea and a gradual release from idolatry towards a spiritual approach. For this I received a lot of criticism from Christians who felt I was peeing on their pitch. Having been brought up Christian and having some experience with Christian writings, I have orientated myself on Christianity for the most part, but have sought a contrast in other traditions. I personally feel an affinity to Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion.

1b. If the text is just mythy-type stuff, then you are better-off taking yourself to a bookstore and choosing a new myth---one that has the full breadth of thousands of years of human learning behind it, and which wasn't written by ignorant, barely decended from the tree, tribal overlords.

Whilst there were always tribal overlords around, the religious texts which we have as the basis of religion were not written by them. The language and the mythological background is too complex for someone who as more familiar with warfare than with writing. We don't even know where the source of this all actually is and how far back it goes. Much of the Bible has been collected over centuries from various cultures and probably the OT was assembled after the Babylonian captivity. The wisdom literature is older and from an unknown source.

2. I am sure that you are a highly intelligent, sensible, and caring person. That is why when you read the text, you do not actually think someone should be stoned for fucking the wrong way. But nothing about the text itself taught you this. This is because ideas that are on a par with the idea that someone should be stoned for fucking the wrong way are often entirely justified by the text.

Thank you for the roses. The fact that you bring the OT down to this one crude aspect reveals that you are not really familiar with what the Bible is about. Of course there are laws and punishments in the Bible which correspond with the time it was written – life was hard all that time ago, wherever you were.

It is your own way of pushing it aside – which is OK by me. But then again, things that I push aside don't trouble me further. You should ask yourself what brings you back to the religion forum over and over again. Perhaps you would let me have a conversation with people who are interested instead of behaving like a troll and contributing nothing whilst at the same time accusing the contributors of things you can only assume, but don't know.

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Re: Stories to live by

Postby von Rivers » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:59 pm

alyoshka wrote:However, I don't see what believing in their historical fact has to do with their representing substantial ethical codes. Or, I don't see why we can't believe that Scriptures represent substantial ethical codes and that they do not represent history. I see no issue there.

They can't represent substantial ethical codes because their basis is in divine command. That would be perfectly fine, if (1) you didn't treat that as mythy-type stuff, and (2) had some good reason to think it true---but with regard to (1), at least, you are. Remove the reason as 'mythy-type stuff', and what sort of ethics do you have left? --Not one that has any reasons behind it, right?

Did you live back then? Can you really comment on the wisdom of the writers?
Of course I can, and so can you. We've read their book(s)...

Jesus took the law literally for instance. Every jot and tittle. And what did he do when faced with an adulteress? Did he cast a stone? No, he understood the law. Those who think it means they can stone someone for "fucking the wrong way" have not taken it literally enough.
It'd be nice to be able to agree with you here, but the fact is that Jesus was not a very good Jew. He didn't take the law literally for instance.
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby von Rivers » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:15 pm

Bob wrote:So you are saying that I, Bob, am caught in a horrible lie or bad position having posited such ideas.
You're positing the ideas in your OP because when you read the story that you like literally, you get bad results, (which you noted). Your OP is not a horrible lie or bad position, it's a defence of one.

If the text is just mythy-type stuff, then you are better-off taking yourself to a bookstore and choosing a new myth---one that has the full breadth of thousands of years of human learning behind it, and which wasn't written by ignorant, barely decended from the tree, tribal overlords.

This is worth repeating, because it wasn't addressed. You jumped on the overlord comment.

Bob wrote:The fact that you bring the OT down to this one crude aspect reveals that you are not really familiar with what the Bible is about. Of course there are laws and punishments in the Bible which correspond with the time it was written – life was hard all that time ago, wherever you were.

Are you saying we ought to throw out the 10 commandments, because they were just meant to correspond back then? Why don't we throw out the whole book---it's thousands of years old---(talk about corresponding...).

Bob wrote:It is your own way of pushing it aside – which is OK by me. But then again, things that I push aside don't trouble me further. You should ask yourself what brings you back to the religion forum over and over again. Perhaps you would let me have a conversation with people who are interested instead of behaving like a troll and contributing nothing whilst at the same time accusing the contributors of things you can only assume, but don't know.

As you know, what people believe is not contained in the walls of their skull, but manifests itself in their actions. No matter what you want to talk about, you should have to talk about it with people who think what you're saying is bunk, and worse. If not talk to them, then at least not ask that they exclude themselves and call them "troll".
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby Bob » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:31 pm

Mo_ wrote:You're positing the ideas in your OP because when you read the story that you like literally, you get bad results, (which you noted). Your OP is not a horrible lie or bad position, it's a defence of one.

It is a different take on something which I feel has been taken out of proportion by evangelical Christians. If they want historicity, then they should accept that there are archaic aspects of the stories which, in an oral tradition, would have been disposed of as time goes on and the refinement of society takes place.

This is worth repeating, because it wasn't addressed. You jumped on the overlord comment.

Not so, if you would go back and look, I wrote this: "Whilst there were always tribal overlords around, the religious texts which we have as the basis of religion were not written by them. The language and the mythological background is too complex for someone who as more familiar with warfare than with writing. We don't even know where the source of this all actually is and how far back it goes. Much of the Bible has been collected over centuries from various cultures and probably the OT was assembled after the Babylonian captivity. The wisdom literature is older and from an unknown source."

Are you saying we ought to throw out the 10 commandments, because they were just meant to correspond back then? Why don't we throw out the whole book---it's thousands of years old---(talk about corresponding...).

Apart from the commandments which are purely theistic, the remaining eight commandents correspond with the Buddhist Dharma.

As you know, what people believe is not contained in the walls of their skull, but manifests itself in their actions. No matter what you want to talk about, you should have to talk about it with people who think what you're saying is bunk, and worse. If not talk to them, then at least not ask that they exclude themselves and call them "troll".

Perhaps you could consider the fact that you at least gave rise to the idea that you were a troll, and only now, in conversing, does it seem to not be the case. Your first comments were indeed that you thought what I was saying was bunk, but you didn't follow up. The second time you virtually repeated your statements.

At present I am preparing a story I told about eleven years ago (unfortunately it was in German) about Elijah, so that I can show what I mean. But it is late here and I might have to put it off until tomorrow.

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Re: Stories to live by

Postby alyoshka » Sat Dec 17, 2011 3:19 am

Mo_ wrote:They can't represent substantial ethical codes because their basis is in divine command.That would be perfectly fine, if (1) you didn't treat that as mythy-type stuff, and (2) had some good reason to think it true---but with regard to (1), at least, you are. Remove the reason as 'mythy-type stuff', and what sort of ethics do you have left? --Not one that has any reasons behind it, right?


Not divine command. Divine revelation. God reveals a certain life in Scripture to us. Or better yet, Scripture reveals God's life to us. God doesn't dictate. God doesn't even do the revealing. Rather human writers did that. I think this consideration dismantles the force of point (1).

Also, or to continue with the theme of divine revelation versus command, when I say "ethical code" I don't mean law so much as way of life. The point of Scripture is to show us the way, not to give us the law.

With point (2) though I think you are absolutely right. I need good reason to think it true. That the way or life revealed by Scripture is the truth. How do I do that? I think that's a question we all have to wrestle with, no matter our source material. No immediate answers, although I'm sure Scripture gives clues (you will know them by their fruits?).

Mo_ wrote:
Did you live back then? Can you really comment on the wisdom of the writers?
Of course I can, and so can you. We've read their book(s)...


That's an unfair comment. Scriptures, in terms of depth and difficulty, are beyond anything written these days or even for the past centuries or even millenia. We don't put the same into our writings anymore. Why? I think it's partially as Bob described. These days once written a work is done. Authorship is individualized. Before it was a cultural endeavour and works were able to mature over time with subsequent writers.

But true or not, this obviously doesn't prove the wisdom of Scripture or its writers. You certainly haven't proved your point either though. So please, show me how Genesis 1 or 2-3 is stupid. Show me how these simple texts alone, which have challenged the greatest thinkers up to today, are indicative of immature authors. In truth, they say more in hundreds of pithy words than what philosophers are able to say in hundreds of thousands.

Mo_ wrote:It'd be nice to be able to agree with you here, but the fact is that Jesus was not a very good Jew. He didn't take the law literally for instance.


Where did he not take the law literally? Did he not say every jot and tittle will be fulfilled? What are you referring to here?
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby von Rivers » Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:01 am

alyoshka wrote:
Mo_ wrote:They can't represent substantial ethical codes because their basis is in divine command.That would be perfectly fine, if (1) you didn't treat that as mythy-type stuff, and (2) had some good reason to think it true---but with regard to (1), at least, you are. Remove the reason as 'mythy-type stuff', and what sort of ethics do you have left? --Not one that has any reasons behind it, right?

Not divine command. Divine revelation. God reveals a certain life in Scripture to us. Or better yet, Scripture reveals God's life to us. God doesn't dictate. God doesn't even do the revealing. Rather human writers did that. I think this consideration dismantles the force of point (1).


Whether you treat it as command or revelation (btw, I'm not even sure what the difference is---because I was not suggesting the command came in the form of a loud yell from behind the clouds) does not matter; it's whether you treat it as fact or fiction that matters. I.e., matters to (1).

Scriptures, in terms of depth and difficulty, are beyond anything written these days or even for the past centuries or even millenia. We don't put the same into our writings anymore.
False. Not only do we put more into our writings, we have more to put into them. There are more insights into the human condition in one chapter of any of George Elliot's books than in the entirety of the Torah, Bible, and Koran combined. The fact is that if you want to understand and answer any of the most basic questions that people have (why am i here?, how should i behave?, who am i?, etc) you are far better off, if not in literature, then picking up any of the tremendously fallible philosophers, none of whom claim to be god. I'm thinking Mill, Freud, Nietzsche, etc.

So please, show me how Genesis 1 or 2-3 is stupid. Show me how these simple texts alone, which have challenged the greatest thinkers up to today, are indicative of immature authors.

What criteria are you accepting as "stupid"? Usually we take that to mean things like, inconsistency, contradictions, outrageous falsehoods, being boring or dull, lacking any sort of reasoning or support for claims...

Please explain how these texts "challenge the greatest thinkers up to today".
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby alyoshka » Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:29 am

Mo_ wrote:it's whether you treat it as fact or fiction that matters. I.e., matters to (1).


It's a work of human hands. Stories that never necessarily happened. Therefore fiction. So again, maybe to help orient me, why is it that fiction can't represent an ethic? You said before because the basis of Scripture is in divine command, which suggested that this gave it a factual character. But why is it that a piece of fiction can't reveal something factual, or have a factual character?

Mo_ wrote:False. Not only do we put more into our writings, we have more to put into them.


Let's be fair: neither of us can bring any finality to this. I'll say there is more depth to Scripture, you will say no, there is more depth to modern literature. Fine. I grant you there is some brilliant literature being produced. Or that has been produced. There is no denying that.

Mo_ wrote:What criteria are you accepting as "stupid"? Usually we take that to mean things like, inconsistency, contradictions, outrageous falsehoods, being boring or dull, lacking any sort of reasoning or support for claims...


Any criteria you want. Or better, objective ones (leave dullness out of it for example). Let's hear your full assault on Genesis 1. May as well start at the beginning.

Mo_ wrote:Please explain how these texts "challenge the greatest thinkers up to today".


Okay. For starters, in the West, most philosophers were Christian, even up to and through the Enlightenment (Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard). Even the famous atheists dealt heavily and deeply with Scripture, indicating that it was a major influence in their work (Freud, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger...)

Today? Zizek, Badiou, Agamben. There's three who have wrestled with Scripture. It's kind of a silly question though, no? There's endless names I could list here, religious people, despisers of religion, or just secularists, all of whom have wrestled with Scripture. (Pardon my continental drift.)


What makes you think you've got it all figured out I wonder? Please, if you're so confident in your assessment, give me the jist and tell me why it's so (clearly) wrong.
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby von Rivers » Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:38 am

alyoshka wrote:So again, maybe to help orient me, why is it that fiction can't represent an ethic? You said before because the basis of Scripture is in divine command, which suggested that this gave it a factual character. But why is it that a piece of fiction can't reveal something factual?

An ethic can be represented by a fiction, but not justified by a fiction. There are all kinds of truths in fiction, as the saying goes, but none of them are true because they are in the fiction.

Any criteria you want. Or better, objective ones though (leave dullness out of it). Let's hear your full assault on Genesis 1. May as well start at the beginning.
I'll provide the some contradictions soon-ish. Are you denying they exist there?


Mo_ wrote:Okay. For starters, in the West, most philosophers were Christian. Even the famous atheists dealt heavily and deeply with Scripture, indicating that it was a major influence in their work (Freud, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, Levinas, Riceour,...)

Most people were Christian, and there were often penalties for not declaring you were. If you're suggesting that people like Freud, Nietzsche, Sartre "wrestled" with religion---as in they thought it was a serious candidate explanation for how things actually are---you're wrong. They were interested in what was wrong with people who continued to think that religion was a serious candidate explanation for how things actually are.

What makes you think you've got it all figured out I wonder? Please, if you're so confident in your assessment, give me the jist and tell me why it's so (clearly) wrong.

1. I don't have it figured out.
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby alyoshka » Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:30 pm

Mo_ wrote:An ethic can be represented by a fiction, but not justified by a fiction. There are all kinds of truths in fiction, as the saying goes, but none of them are true because they are in the fiction.


What can an ethic be justified by? I intimated before that the "justification" is in the results. Life and a lasting prosperity are what demonstrate (or justify) a mature ethic.

Mo_ wrote:I'll provide the some contradictions soon-ish. Are you denying they exist there?


If we take Genesis 1 as an isolated text, I don't see any contradictions. Beyond Genesis 1, my feeling is that if you give proper attention to the text, and don't take things out of context, then you'll find a deep consistency, across books and testaments.

Just be careful in any analysis that you don't take a passage in isolation. It's okay with Genesis 1 because it's the beginning. There is no prior context required here but rather Genesis 1 is the context for all that comes (just as Genesis 2-3 is for that matter). I think it is important to be mindful of this.

(We can't read Genesis 2-3 without Genesis 1 and we can't read the rest of scripture without Genesis 1-3.)

Mo_ wrote:Most people were Christian, and there were often penalties for not declaring you were.


And many were admittedly Christian long after there were penalties for not being so. (Hegel? Kierkegaard? ...)

Mo_ wrote:If you're suggesting that people like Freud, Nietzsche, Sartre "wrestled" with religion---as in they thought it was a serious candidate explanation for how things actually are---you're wrong. They were interested in what was wrong with people who continued to think that religion was a serious candidate explanation for how things actually are.


They certainly had other views for "how things actually are." But look at Nietzsche for instance. It's not hard to find evidence of how he wrestled with Scripture. For where else did he find inspiration for his revaluation of values but in Paul's declaration that the weak will overcome the strong? Nietzsche refers to Paul himself. I also recall one spot where, yes, he ripped what he perceived to be the view of the Gospel writers, just as he was ripping Plato, but where his point was that these texts continue to challenge him, Plato included, and that they challenge him like no other. (I believe this is in Anti-Christ or Twilight of the Idols. Could be wrong though.)

Or his Zarathustra. Do you think the mythical-religious style of this text was an effort to deride religious thinking? Even his "death of God" talk was, in reality, the death of the Aristotilean God as the foundation of beings, such that Heidegger's later critique of onto-theology is not really a critique of the Judeo-Christian God (if you read Genesis 1 closely you'll see that God is not the foundation of beings but rather there is a primordial working-with the elements of creation, a cooperative model that is very different from the unmoved mover or more generally the 'ultimate being in the hierarchy' kind of thinking).

Sartre I could leave out of the list I gave. I'm not aware of any serious Scriptural reflection in his work. He was certainly influenced, for example his 'existence precedes essence' was the conclusion of his denial of a creator God, and that says a lot, but I'm not sure how deeply he engaged Scripture.

Mo_ wrote:I don't have it figured out.


So how can you be so certain about the bruteness of biblical authors or the inconsistency of biblical texts? It strikes me as a lack of integrity making conclusions about superficial details (or what appear to be inconsistencies on the surface) unless you know what's going on and can truly confirm that the pieces don't fit.
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby alyoshka » Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:37 pm

Mo_ wrote:There are more insights into the human condition in one chapter of any of George Elliot's books than in the entirety of the Torah, Bible, and Koran combined.


I've been reviewing Nietzsche out of my own curiosity. Trying to find where he discusses Paul and the revaluation of values. Found this comment about Eliot though which I thought was germane. I don't know Eliot so I can't say anything myself:

G. Eliot. — They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. That is an English consistency; we do not wish to hold it against little moralistic females à la Eliot. In England one must rehabilitate oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe-inspiring manner what a moral fanatic one is. That is the penance they pay there.


That's in Twilight of the Idols, "SKIRMISHES OF AN UNTIMELY MAN".
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby Bob » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:12 am

A story I re-told in the year 2000:

Today I would like to tell a story of a figure of the Old Testament, Elijah.

In Jesus' time there was hope that a man would return in the spirit of Elijah to Israel and would clean up things. He would throw out the occupiers and the governors. Israel would return to the good old days. Some saw in John the Baptist an apparition of Elijah. It is said that some believed that Jesus had begged to Elijah, as he hung on the cross.

Elijah is seen as a figure of hope, as someone to put religious life in order, as a charismatic liberator. He seems to have been all this for thousands of Jews and is prominent in stories and songs. It is as though believers need such heroes from time to time. But, the story of Elijah is difficult at face value, like so many stories of the Old Testament. Today we can not simply regard such heroic figures as being right in all they did. Christians need to read the OT from the standpoint of Christ. We need to find “what confirms Christ," as Luther once said. If Elijah was right in everything, we would have to doubt Christ's message.

Elijah is portrayed as the most dedicated advocate of the faith in one God and his claim to Israel. He fights the enemies of the faith and puts prophets of Ba'al to death with his own hands. At least here we find him contrary to the spirit of Christ, who symbolically overturned the tables in the temple, but has never called for violence. On the contrary, he tells his followers to love their enemies.

It is reported that Elijah humiliates his opponents out of sheer enthusiasm. He feels that his God, who is very jealous, is a supporter of all of his actions. But in our section he is, despite all eagerness, at his wit's end. Even (or especially) after the elation of his victory, he is lost all élan and strength. He sees no escape. His opponents, Ahab and Jezebel are overpowering in his eyes - and he is afraid. He feels abandoned, he resigns.

First Book of Kings 19
1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the elohim do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.
3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O YHVH, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

For us in the West in modern times the idea of revenge is perhaps not quite as prominent as in other cultures. But we hear often enough that this idea is still there. The more open we deal with the world, the fewer the boundaries we draw, the more we encounter thoughts like these. And even in our own culture, vigilantism is not unknown. The fear of revenge make us just as worried as it did Elijah. Maybe we do not have to run for our lives, but we try to keep everything risk-free.

Back to the story. We may hold the seriousness of the situation of Elijah in honour, but could it be the fate of the over-zealous and idealists that at some time they reach a point when they only want to die? What is point in the end? His physical and mental strength has reached an end. It is low tide, the wick of the candle has burned to a glimmer. Enough is enough! Burnout is possibly down to the overzealous such moments know all too well.

It is possible that such people will suddenly realize what had kept their zeal red-hot: the idea of being better than the fathers. This idea, this hope that with us the situation will 'finally' change, so that 'finally' something reasonable can be achieved, has a mysterious power over us, and lets us be driven by pride rather than by love of God.

Elijah says at the end of the disillusionment: I'm not better than my fathers. It seems that God allows his zealous and self-praising Prophets to burn out and become drained and have to admit: I can't do that! We can't go on dreaming our dreams, and believing that the world is waiting for us. Even if we want to spread the love of God and embrace the whole world - and even if we seem to have a noble task. We must eventually come to dis-illusionment and sober up.

We can neither squeeze the world nor God into our plans. God will evade us and seem even lost, if we try. What remains is perhaps the pride and ambition to make everything better. And these may push us as if they were the spirit of God - but they drive us to other ways. Paths are paved with dead bodies and wounded - perhaps much more than we imagined. And our victories, the triumphs along the way? They fade into the realization: I am no better than the fathers and all of me.

Why is the great fighter so resigned? What is he afraid of? If God is for him, who can be against him? But it is precisely this certainty which he has lost. Under such circumstances, when our zeal is so great, God becomes so small. We ask, is he not a man of God? A prophet, a spokesman for God? Perhaps Elijah also asks quietly: Am I not your man? And whether for him or for us, it is healthy to ask in that way. It is healthy to have between us and our ideas so much doubt that God can get in between. Otherwise he must wait until we are down - completely knocked-out and nervous. Perhaps we must even suffer depressive mood disorders. For some of us, that is the only way God can get a word in!

However, we must pause a moment and ask ourselves: Aren't the conditions sometimes so bad that reforms are necessary? Don't we sometimes need harsh criticism so that intolerable conditions be changed? Haven't there been enough examples of historical misdirection that need to be corrected? What would have become of Europe sixty years ago without a course correction? And the recent history? Must we not sometimes move in and take over?

The Church of Jesus stands in the midst of such historical developments. The church also needs reforms. However, reform must be the result of an awoken consciousness. They shouldn't only be driven by ambition. We as Christians are involved in an ongoing development process. Nor can we orientate ourselves only on the past. We need to meet the present and the future and seek answers to current questions. There are people living in an 'eternal yesterday' among Christians, and those with a habit of obscuring what every blind person could recognize. Children often see better.

Sometimes it makes you tired to search for answers. Sometimes our previous answers are no longer satisfactory. It is sometimes hard to admit that previous answers that have ruled our lives for so long, no longer reflect the present. Maybe the crisis comes at a worst possible moment, as with Elijah. Perhaps Elijah cried out to God: "Not now, Lord! I can't use Depression right now! Right now I need all my strength to cope with the new situation. The new danger must be averted. Our enemies are gathering. A new phase of life must be addressed. A recovery must take place in the nation. There are so many reasons now to have no crisis! "

The story continues:

5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
7 And the angel of YHVH came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of Elohim.
9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of YHVH came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Elijah finally comes to rest! But the advice to take a nap or go rest ourselves is well said. It is implementation which is difficult. We need a place that is away from the humdrum - perhaps a day trip away from everyday life. A change of scenery. Different air to breathe. A quiet chamber. A hiding place. A refuge.

Sleep is a gift that we often neglect. But we need to sleep. The limbs, the muscles, the brain needs a break. We need to regenerate. We need the energizing sleep that sorts our thoughts. We must come to our senses and get rid of everything that has concerned us so far – that which has taken possession of us. There must be a cut - a break. Sleep can do that.

And we need someone who comes and wakes us and says: Get up and eat! A messenger, an angel must come. Who knows what shape they have. Wives and husbands, children, friends or colleagues. Someone who pursues us and said, Arise and eat! Strengthening is in order. A hug, a gift, a few words, a glance that tells us: I'm here for you!

I do not know what you need - perhaps not a toasted bread and a jug of water - but eating and drinking are important. Something good that can bring us back to the essence of life, to be. Also the essentials of nutrition. Occasionally we need to purify the body. And we sometimes need go back to sleep again, too.

Do you treat yourself to the rest you need? Or have you displaced or driven out rest? It must not be absolute silence - or “dead silence” - but it should enable us to be calm. Whatever you feel about that. We must ask ourselves whether we rest, or whether we suppress tiredness. After all, those who suppress tiredness reach a stage when they can't sleep. And rest doesn't become sleep - unless we have mistreated ourselves so much that we can no longer stand on our legs. But then you need very much sleep until it is restful and restorative sleep.

And then hopefully our angel comes back and strengthens us. But even more. We also need the reminder: You haven't reached where you're going. Don't give up now! I personally need this angel - I am the product of the influences of my fellow man. We can give only what we are given. Do we hear those angels sent to us by God? Or do we allow ourselves to be messengers for others?

How often is fatigue paired with disorientation and gives birth to resignation! May God always send us messengers who can strengthen us so that we pull ourselves together and move us towards the goal. However, the goal is not the realisation of all of our plans - the goal is the encounter with God. There, namely, is the refuge that we need. To hide the holes in this world is not right if we are called to be sons and daughters of God. Let us not forget this call. The NT says, that Christ gives us the power to become children of God and to be his brothers and sister.

We are to take refuge in him, so we do not go missing. So we don't "end up in the pit," as it is often said in the Psalms. And there are so many pits, which we can fall into. But the Bible says throughout all of these stories, like the one we have before us today, that God has ways to strengthen us and lead the way. And Elijah can strengthen himself and find the way forward - to Horeb, the mountain of God. He walks full of resolve and straight there because he needs the encounter. He needs a word, he needs certainty and confidence.

Where can we find this encounter? Where is our mount Horeb? Where do we meet God? God comes to Elijah in his sleep – Elijah doesn't seem to have made preparations for it. Neither did he ask himself whether he had prayed the right words or whether he had the right attitude, he hadn't opened his Bible. He had just come to a meeting and it happened.
Jesus makes it clear in the NT that we can encounter God and His kingdom in all situations of life, in nature, in everything that can be found in the cosmos - that God can't be ignored. He has his fingers everywhere in the game. Paul quotes: "if possibly they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us" And yet the Mount Horeb symbol of the encounter between the Creator and his image. It is the meeting place - which can today be a quiet chamber, a park bench, a wooded area, a church or chapel.

Time off to recharge your batteries is good for us. Find your own centre, discover the centre of your power. God wants to be the centre, says Christ. You are always guided by so many differing viewpoints and influences. Let yourself be brought where you may find rest for your souls. Where will you refreshed and revived. With him you are a child of God, which knows where it belongs. This gives us the confidence we need. Sunday was traditionally the day of refuelling or getting off the roundabout to find rest. On the 7th Day, it is written, God wants to meet us in a special way, namely in rest.

10 And he said, I have been very jealous for YHVH Elohim of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before YHVH. And, behold, YHVH passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before YHVH; but YHVH was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but YHVH was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but YHVH was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Poor Elijah! He was zealous for the Lord of hosts, but now he is without armies alone in a cave. Alone and in danger. The altars are broken and the prophets were killed. And God asks, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" What a question! Doesn't he know that? It is as if God had hidden himself long before Elijah in the cave! Elijah must enlighten him?
Do we forget sometimes just like Elijah did. God permits many things, but, can we explain to God at all? It is our custom to babble sometimes, "I have been very zealous! Where everyone else left the covenant I am yet remained faithful, the only survivor. And now I'm sitting here alone! " Elijah doesn't have a clear view of the situation! He finds himself alone in the fight against the wicked and abandoned by God, for which he was zealous for. There's accusation in his voice. “I no longer recognize you! Previously you were always on my side! Where is my confidence gone?”

Perhaps Elijah doesn't recognize his God indeed. That is perhaps why it had to come to this meeting on Horeb. Know your God is the motto! Do we know our God? How often there have been stories of messengers of God and heirs who were not only ignored by the people of God, but fought off. Jesus told once his opponents a story and the zealots of the time immediately recognized that they were portrayed as the enemy of God. Only they made the story come true.

In all these stories, God is the Father, who runs after his Children. The no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He is the father who strains his eyes to watch the horizon each day, yearning for the returning son to walk up the path. He's the one who runs down to meet his son and showers him with kisses. It is important to recognize these glad tidings and return. This good news has also gone to Elijah, who wanted to die just because he realized what had really motivated him all the time. He didn't want to go a step further and was brought to this encounter.

Know your God! Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord! Whether we have the courage to take this step? What dangers lurk on the mountain when the Lord passes by us? Threats to the mindset that we have built so carefully. Threats to the ideas with which we have explained our world. Threats to all that we have full-bodied and full of zeal kept the other.

The big, strong wind symbolizes a strong spirit which even tears and shatters rocks. He tears the toughest mountain into small chunks. We might think, such a God would bring a long-awaited dynamic into a dormant Christianity - Elijah wants such a strong God. He should sweep across the land and carry away all adversaries. But the Lord was not in the wind.

The earthquake symbolizes the enormous creative powers but also judicial powers, which were also active in the story of the Flood. They are purifying forces which, according to the story of Noah, cracked the ground under their feet and hurled them into the depths. But now it says: the Lord was not in the earthquake.

A fire - Last detergent, final disinfection and sterilization. Excluding the earth from cadaver, plague and all deadly effects. But here it is: the Lord was not in the fire.

Know your God! Go out and comes on the mountain before the Lord! And behold, the Lord will pass. An important moment. A decisive moment. When is he coming? Don't we ask this too often? Can it be that we say: I do not see and hear God! It is nothing but a quiet small voice!

I do not know when it dawned on Elijah. I do not know how fast he had realized that the silence and the gentleness was the Lord - I would have probably noticed not so fast – but that's why we have this story. But when will it dawn on us? When will we become wiser in dealing with God? When will we acknowledge the quiet, gentle message of God? And when will this message guide us? Who is proclaiming this message?

Is this not the message from the Old Testament for Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Pentecost all together, as it is written by Sacharja (4:6 b): It is not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

The word Sabaoth means hosts. The Lord of hosts will not come by military force or the target - this has to be imagined - the Lord of hosts will not achieve his goals by might or power. But by the Spirit of Christ. He is the spirit of mercy, "who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. The redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion. The saturates your desire with good things, that thy youth is renewed like the eagle "(Ps.103).

We Christians must learn that the way of Christ differs significantly from our path. But he is the one who goes before us so that we follow him. He is the good leaven, which should mingle with our lives, so its effect runs through our whole life. He is also the new wine that does not fit into old wineskin’s. The Spirit of Christ is too dynamic - but in an unfamiliar, quiet, gentle way.

What are you doing here Elijah? What are you doing here Christian man or woman? What forces do you hope to evoke in the cave where you hide, in order to satisfy your ambition? Maybe our ambition and the will of God do not mix - we may have to differentiate.

And the Lord was not in the wind, not in the earthquake, nor in the fire. And then came a still, small voice. That's a comfort to all who recognize the tragedy of mankind. One consolation for those who suffer the plight of the world, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the poor.

These people are blessed according to Christ - they can all look forward, because God takes down their load, gives them the earth for a possession, satisfies their desires, is merciful to them and they may see God, because they are God's children.

Finally, Elijah is said that everything will go it's way. And that he is not as alone as he thinks. He may retire and call a successor. It doesn't all depend on him - and it never depends solely on us. God enforces his good intentions with or without us - and sometimes even in spite of our efforts.

I wish us all the experience that a crisis can bring us to our senses. That sleep and peace strengthens us. That a break gives us new strength. That in the long run we can gain a new insight. And I wish us all that we keep the quiet, gentle message of Christ before our eyes - and learn humility and gentleness.

AMEN.


This is just an example of what I meant. I would tell the story differently today, but it was the only one I had written down - although I had to translate it from German. The groups that listen to such stories are encouraged to make short comments if they want but to assist the storyline and not to slow it down. Obviously some wait until the end, but some enhanced the whole process by their actively taking part.

Take Care
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
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Re: Stories to live by

Postby von Rivers » Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:20 pm

alyoshka wrote:What can an ethic be justified by? I intimated before that the "justification" is in the results. Life and a lasting prosperity are what demonstrate (or justify) a mature ethic.
Apparently you can ask and answer your own questions.

Mo_ wrote:If we take Genesis 1 as an isolated text, I don't see any contradictions. Beyond Genesis 1, my feeling is that if you give proper attention to the text, and don't take things out of context, then you'll find a deep consistency, across books and testaments.
This is strange coming from someone who's ready to admit human authorship. I'm sure if you took an isolated page from even the most contradictory person, you'd manage to find consistency on it. I have limited access to internet now. If you're anxious, you can entertain yourself by a google search for contradictions in the bible.

Just be careful in any analysis that you don't take a passage in isolation. It's okay with Genesis 1 because it's the beginning. There is no prior context required here but rather Genesis 1 is the context for all that comes (just as Genesis 2-3 is for that matter). I think it is important to be mindful of this.
Yes, it is important to be mindful of this when you rip a passage about Eliot out from a commentator and haven't read her, and then declare your intentions to fish through Nietzsche to find a scattered reference to some biblical figure to prove Nietzsche thought, somehow, about biblical figures.

And many were admittedly Christian long after there were penalties for not being so. (Hegel? Kierkegaard? ...)
Terrible examples, especially kierkegaard. As you know, penalties are social and internalized/psychological as well as written and legal.

But look at Nietzsche for instance. It's not hard to find evidence of how he wrestled with Scripture. For where else did he find inspiration for his revaluation of values but in Paul's declaration that the weak will overcome the strong?
If that's all you think is required to "wrestle with Scripture", then any underdog long before scripture and the bible "wrestled with scripture".

Or his Zarathustra. Do you think the mythical-religious style of this text was an effort to deride religious thinking?
Do you think the style of his text was anything like the bible? Is that what you're suggesting?
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