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Re: The meaning of life in one post - J Michael - 08-14-2016

(08-14-2016, 01:12 AM)Melkite Wrote: I'm currently reading a book called Before the Dawn.  It traces the human genome, archaeology and anthropology to establish a history of the human species from the common human-chimp ancestor all the way down to the beginnings of recorded history.  If true, it definitely throws a monkey wrench into the idea of original sin, as many things that we associate with sin can be observed in the behaviors of other apes, and certainly in humanity prior to the time that humans would have been given a rational soul, if lined up with Judeo-Christian ideas.  For example, war and cannibalism can be observed not only in chimpanzees, but also anatomically modern humans prior to becoming behaviorally modern humans (BMH being likely what would have been the start of rationally-ensouled humans). 

I've also been watching some videos of Fr. Mike Schmitz for Ascension Press.  One video I watched recently was about the laws of the Old Testament and if they still apply.  This has been an issue for me because I see a lot of the OT as describing a cruel, vindictive God who commanded and demanded genocide, wiped out all of humanity, demanded Abraham sacrifice Isaac, etc.  In this video, Fr. Mike explains that the reason the OT laws no longer apply to Christians is because many of those laws were specifically for the Kingdom of Israel.  The Kingdom of Israel, as a political entity, no longer exists, so those laws no longer apply, just in the same way as the laws of the Holy Roman Empire no longer apply.  But he also explained the seeming roughness of OT law as a gradual way of drawing people to the ideal God has for us.  We no longer have an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth anymore.  But Fr. Mike suggests that this was necessary during the Bronze Age because people at that time could not have accepted forgiveness as Christ taught.  He referenced the educational "+1" theory, whereby people can understand what they know and the next level beyond it, but not two or three levels beyond.  So the goal of educating is to take what a person knows and then take them just a little bit further, and once they have that, just a little bit further.  So, it would have been too much for these Bronze Age peoples to handle forgiveness as Christ preached.  People lived in societies that were very cruel by modern standards, where theft of a small item could mean amputation of a limb, or killing of a neighbor's cow could have meant your own death in retribution.  By teaching an eye for an eye, at that time, God was tempering the barbaric societies of the time so that later they could move even closer towards what God asks of us.  This all reminded me of something that my mother once said to me that has stuck with me.  She believes that the OT is basically elementary school religion, and that the NT is the religion the people have when they graduate from the OT.  Kind of the same idea, that one isn't ready for the NT until they've successfully mastered the goals of the OT.

At any rate, going back to this book, it got me thinking that all of these evolutions and adaptations that have taken place in early human history, when warfare, cannibalism and other things that we consider mortally sinful today were vitally necessary for their survival, what if they aren't sin in the way we understand it per se?  Chimpanzees war with each other, they massacre rival groups, taking no prisoners and almost gleefully murder other chimpanzees in an effort to protect the land where their females feed and protect their young.  It certainly isn't sinful to these animals, yet we consider it to be disgusting, abhorrent behavior in humans, even though this is the history of our species as well.  Assuming the evolutionary model is more or less accurate, what if religion, from the beginning of God making us aware of his existence, has been just one step in a long progression of God slowly drawing us towards perfection?  So, for example, warfare was both common and necessary to early humans, but it became less so as hunter-gather societies coalesced into sedentary societies.  Perhaps these things that were necessary in our history tens of thousands of years ago have become obsolete for our survival, and morality as we understand it is God drawing us towards greater perfection with our current mode of existence.

Like Heorot, I too appreciate your searching, Melkite.  And you do it in what seems to me to be an intelligent way.

A few thoughts, though.  Firstly, it seems to me that you and Fr. Schmitz take Darwinian macro-evolution for granted, as a proven fact.  Without wishing to totally derail the thread, I'd just say that that position is at best arguable in the extreme, as many prior threads on this board demonstrate.

Secondly, what about Matthew 5:17-19?
Quote:[17]"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.

[18] For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
[19] Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The "Law" Jesus is referring to is, afaik, the Mosaic Law and commandments of the OT, the NT not yet having been recorded.  In that Law, forgiveness, as an act of God and as a command by Him is certainly not unknown.  It's mentioned at least 40+ times, albeit in different contexts and with different meanings attached.  See also Leviticus 19:15-18--
Quote: [15]You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
[16] You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand forth against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
[17]"You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him.
[18] You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.



Re: The meaning of life in one post - Melkite - 08-14-2016

(08-14-2016, 02:14 PM)J Michael Wrote: A few thoughts, though.  Firstly, it seems to me that you and Fr. Schmitz take Darwinian macro-evolution for granted, as a proven fact.  Without wishing to totally derail the thread, I'd just say that that position is at best arguable in the extreme, as many prior threads on this board demonstrate.

I apologize if I misconstrued or accidentally conflated things when I was writing last night.  Fr. Schmitz doesn't say anything about evolution, at least that I've seen.  He was only speaking about progression from the OT to the NT.  I was merely trying to voice a possible parallel I saw in that with what I am reading about evolution elsewhere.

I recognize there are a lot of things that evolutionary biologists take for granted when perhaps they shouldn't quite yet.  But even if that is the case, even if evolution isn't as sound a theory as secularists would have us believe, there are still things that we can be absolutely certain are true, which, at least as it appears to me, make it more likely that the evolutionary model is closer to the truth than a literal scriptural one.  So, for example, with a lot of the work referenced in this book by geneticists, they will say that a certain mutation took place sometime between 50,000 and 15,000 years ago.  That's a huge gap!  Paleontologists will say that a certain species of dinosaur existed or this or that rock formation was created 75 million years ago, give or take 5 million years in either direction.  10 million years is a pretty wide margin of error!  Yes it is, but only from our perspective.  We have life spans that make up the tiniest fraction of those times, so they seem like pretty big margins of error.  And anti-evolutionists throw that around like it's a smoking gun.  The reason I think it's not the smoking gun they think it is is because there are indeed different ways to determine approximate age at different distances of time from us, and none of them are perfect.  But they are certainly more perfect than telling us something is 45 million years old when it is really only 6000 years old.  We may only be certain that a particular genetic mutation took place in a window of 35,000 years, but we can be absolutely certain that it took place no later than 15,000 years ago - 9,000 years earlier than the proposed beginning of the universe by biblical literalists.  So for me, even if the theory of evolution is not nearly as accurate as secularists would like us to believe, it has proven things to us that, with 100% certainty, CANNOT be true if the biblical narrative is literally true, UNLESS God is actively placing lies in the ground for us to discover and be confused by.  I'm less comfortable with that possibility than that the Bible might not be true, accurate history.  No Christian should be more comfortable with the idea that God may be lying to us.

Quote:Secondly, what about Matthew 5:17-19?
Quote:[17]"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.

][18] For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
[19] Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The "Law" Jesus is referring to is, afaik, the Mosaic Law and commandments of the OT, the NT not yet having been recorded.  In that Law, forgiveness, as an act of God and as a command by Him is certainly not unknown.  It's mentioned at least 40+ times, albeit in different contexts and with different meanings attached. 

This is something I think about a lot regarding things I have trouble about the OT with.  It's a problem for Christianity if it is to be taken literally.  It cannot both be true that Christ has said not one iota of the law shall pass away, which includes dietary law, AND that we are now allowed to eat foods that were prohibited by the Mosaic law.  Either his saying that the law shall not pass away was to be taken figuratively in some way, OR he was lying in either saying the law shall not pass away or all foods are now clean.  And that is if Christianity is what it claims to be!  A more cynical explanation would be that Christ was not divine, actually said it and meant it, and that Peter was lying or hallucinating when he said he had a vision of Christ saying that all foods were now licit, and just didn't have a very good memory of the things Christ said while still on earth.  But this possibility is one that can't be believed by faithful Christians.  So somewhere along the way, it must be figurative, because both sayings being literally true are logically impossible.

More personally for me, I think about Christ saying that not one iota of the law will pass away in regards to circumcision.  Christ never said circumcision was no longer binding on the Church.  It was the Council of Jerusalem that formally decided that.  In reality, the apostles probably only came to this conclusion because they saw it would be incredibly hard to convert Gentiles to the Church if circumcision was mandatory.  We have it on the Church's authority that this is also the will of Christ, but that all depends on the Church really having that authority to begin with.  If Christ never intended for the Church to have that potent a teaching authority, then we can never really know whether he intended to do away with circumcision or not - obviously not if he meant literally that the Mosaic law would never pass away.  This is a frightening possibility for me, because I would absolutely reject and renounce any religion that demanded genital mutilation of me.  If I had been raised Jewish or Muslim, I would have apostatized formally long ago.  The only thing really holding me to Christianity is the wiggle room that circumcision is no longer required and the very uncomfortable box I'm trying to create where God never really ever required it to begin with.  But if Jesus never intended to do away with circumcision, then I would renounce the Church and Christ more absolutely than I ever have before.


Re: The meaning of life in one post - Heorot - 08-14-2016

Melkite, does the meaning of your whole life and eternity and God's love really rotate entirely around whether circumcision is required?

by the way, I always understood the iota/jot/tittle sentence as Jesus saying this with regards to the present situation he was speaking to: when the Law was still in effect. It is no longer in effect. Why not? If we want to be pedantic, and see the whole trajectory of the New Testament in terms of both temporal and ultimate fulfillment of mankind (the New Jerusalem), then the old heavens and the old Earth have definitively passed away, very definitively, in the Resurrection of Christ. The problem is removed, for me.

If Christ is risen, all the Gospels speak truths. No one in awe of such an event would lie to preserve the dignity of one whose dignity had been approved by almighty God.


Re: The meaning of life in one post - Melkite - 08-14-2016

(08-14-2016, 03:30 PM)Heorot Wrote: Melkite, does the meaning of your whole life and eternity and God's love really rotate entirely around whether circumcision is required?

Yes.  If God can require circumcision, or any other mutilation, then his love is a crock of you know what, eternity is being in the presence of a sadistic monster, and life is just biding one's time before that inevitable fate.


Re: The meaning of life in one post - Heorot - 08-14-2016

(08-14-2016, 03:41 PM)Melkite Wrote:
(08-14-2016, 03:30 PM)Heorot Wrote: Melkite, does the meaning of your whole life and eternity and God's love really rotate entirely around whether circumcision is required?

Yes.  If God can require circumcision, or any other mutilation, then his love is a crock of you know what, eternity is being in the presence of a sadistic monster, and life is just biding one's time before that inevitable fate.

Well that's clear enough.  :grin: Certainly something I've struggled with myself.


Re: The meaning of life in one post - J Michael - 08-14-2016

(08-14-2016, 03:18 PM)Melkite Wrote:
(08-14-2016, 02:14 PM)J Michael Wrote: A few thoughts, though.  Firstly, it seems to me that you and Fr. Schmitz take Darwinian macro-evolution for granted, as a proven fact.  Without wishing to totally derail the thread, I'd just say that that position is at best arguable in the extreme, as many prior threads on this board demonstrate.

I apologize if I misconstrued or accidentally conflated things when I was writing last night.  Fr. Schmitz doesn't say anything about evolution, at least that I've seen.  He was only speaking about progression from the OT to the NT.  I was merely trying to voice a possible parallel I saw in that with what I am reading about evolution elsewhere.

I recognize there are a lot of things that evolutionary biologists take for granted when perhaps they shouldn't quite yet.  But even if that is the case, even if evolution isn't as sound a theory as secularists would have us believe, there are still things that we can be absolutely certain are true, which, at least as it appears to me, make it more likely that the evolutionary model is closer to the truth than a literal scriptural one.  So, for example, with a lot of the work referenced in this book by geneticists, they will say that a certain mutation took place sometime between 50,000 and 15,000 years ago.  That's a huge gap!  Paleontologists will say that a certain species of dinosaur existed or this or that rock formation was created 75 million years ago, give or take 5 million years in either direction.  10 million years is a pretty wide margin of error!  Yes it is, but only from our perspective.  We have life spans that make up the tiniest fraction of those times, so they seem like pretty big margins of error.  And anti-evolutionists throw that around like it's a smoking gun.  The reason I think it's not the smoking gun they think it is is because there are indeed different ways to determine approximate age at different distances of time from us, and none of them are perfect.  But they are certainly more perfect than telling us something is 45 million years old when it is really only 6000 years old.  We may only be certain that a particular genetic mutation took place in a window of 35,000 years, but we can be absolutely certain that it took place no later than 15,000 years ago - 9,000 years earlier than the proposed beginning of the universe by biblical literalists.  So for me, even if the theory of evolution is not nearly as accurate as secularists would like us to believe, it has proven things to us that, with 100% certainty, CANNOT be true if the biblical narrative is literally true, UNLESS God is actively placing lies in the ground for us to discover and be confused by.  I'm less comfortable with that possibility than that the Bible might not be true, accurate history.  No Christian should be more comfortable with the idea that God may be lying to us.

Quote:Secondly, what about Matthew 5:17-19?
Quote:[17]"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.

][18] For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
[19] Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The "Law" Jesus is referring to is, afaik, the Mosaic Law and commandments of the OT, the NT not yet having been recorded.  In that Law, forgiveness, as an act of God and as a command by Him is certainly not unknown.  It's mentioned at least 40+ times, albeit in different contexts and with different meanings attached. 

This is something I think about a lot regarding things I have trouble about the OT with.  It's a problem for Christianity if it is to be taken literally.  It cannot both be true that Christ has said not one iota of the law shall pass away, which includes dietary law, AND that we are now allowed to eat foods that were prohibited by the Mosaic law.  Either his saying that the law shall not pass away was to be taken figuratively in some way, OR he was lying in either saying the law shall not pass away or all foods are now clean.  And that is if Christianity is what it claims to be!  A more cynical explanation would be that Christ was not divine, actually said it and meant it, and that Peter was lying or hallucinating when he said he had a vision of Christ saying that all foods were now licit, and just didn't have a very good memory of the things Christ said while still on earth.  But this possibility is one that can't be believed by faithful Christians.  So somewhere along the way, it must be figurative, because both sayings being literally true are logically impossible.

More personally for me, I think about Christ saying that not one iota of the law will pass away in regards to circumcision.  Christ never said circumcision was no longer binding on the Church.  It was the Council of Jerusalem that formally decided that.  In reality, the apostles probably only came to this conclusion because they saw it would be incredibly hard to convert Gentiles to the Church if circumcision was mandatory.  We have it on the Church's authority that this is also the will of Christ, but that all depends on the Church really having that authority to begin with.  If Christ never intended for the Church to have that potent a teaching authority, then we can never really know whether he intended to do away with circumcision or not - obviously not if he meant literally that the Mosaic law would never pass away.  This is a frightening possibility for me, because I would absolutely reject and renounce any religion that demanded genital mutilation of me.  If I had been raised Jewish or Muslim, I would have apostatized formally long ago.  The only thing really holding me to Christianity is the wiggle room that circumcision is no longer required and the very uncomfortable box I'm trying to create where God never really ever required it to begin with.  But if Jesus never intended to do away with circumcision, then I would renounce the Church and Christ more absolutely than I ever have before.

One thing many people either do not realize at all, or tend to forget, or just plain ignore is that not ALL of the commandments that comprise OT Law were meant for ALL people.  Some were meant solely for Jews; some were meant solely for SOME Jews (Levites, for example).  The "Old Testament" or Hebrew Scriptures were compiled mainly for the Jews .  Unless I'm mistaken, gentiles were not held accountable to those commandments unless and until they willingly chose to be so. 

Remember, too, that Jesus was preaching mainly to......Jews, some of whom accepted him first as a preacher/prophet then as Messiah, many of whom did not.  It was Paul who was the Apostle to the Gentiles.


Re: The meaning of life in one post - SaintSebastian - 08-16-2016

The meaning of the existence of a creature is found in the intentions of its creator:


6. Q. Why did God make you?
God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.