Thank you for sharing your scholarship with me. My view of Christianity is that it reconciled two major streams of human thought and spirituality, Jewish faith and Greek philosophy.
Reading the Bible and other sources of history it is clear to me that most Jews and Greeks looked down at each other. I smile at those who say that Christianity created anti-Semitism because it existed long before Christianity did.
On the other hand Christianity brought the Jewish Bible together with Greek philosophy, but of course it is not a perfect marriage. Jews are more like Gentiles, but they are still Jews. Gentiles are more like Jews, but are still Gentiles.
What I read from your statements about Kant is that Kant rejected the historical nature of Judaism and Christianity. He wanted a rational, philosophical system of beliefs, and not a historical, moral, relational faith.
As I see it today we need a new reconciliation between faith, science, and philosophy, because it old one is no longer viable.
God’s omniscience means that all possible human histories are contained in His mind. For each history God’s has a different plan, but all of them aim to fulfill a same aim, the aim He has for Creation.
Consequently all histories with the corresponding divine plans are equivalent. Each of us freely chooses his own history. But in the end my history is relevant only if I remain within God’s knowledge, that is, if I am found worthy of being known by God, and get an everlasting name.
According to Léon Poliakow, Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) inspired Kant’s anti-Semitism. The inspiration came to happen through Kant’s controversy with the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, whose main works were to a great extent a defense of the Jewish religious faith against Spinoza’s teaching on God and his political interpretation of the Mosaic Law. In the controversy with Mendelssohn, especially in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Kant ended up getting hold of Spinoza’s arguments and strengthened them.
In the Theological-political Treatise, Spinoza comes to the conclusion that Judaism is not an authentic religion. It has no divine revelation, but is mere superstition and is an expression of incorrigible atavist patriotism. He declares “to have shown that the election of the Jews meant nothing other than temporal physical happiness and freedom, in other words, autonomous government, and the manner and means by which to obtain it.” [Chapter 3, P15]. Ceremonial laws “were ordained in the Old Testament for the Hebrews only […] it is evident that they formed no part of the Divine law, and had nothing to do with blessedness and virtue […] They served to establish and preserve the Jewish kingdom.” [Chapter 5, P02] When the Jews came out of Egypt, “they were entirely unfit to frame a wise code of laws [Chapter 5, P16]; they were all uncultivated and sunk in a wretched slavery.” In this context, the whole Mosaic Law had reference merely to the government of the Jews, and merely temporal advantages [Chapter 5, P19].
Spinoza sharply criticizes the books of the Old Testament [Chapters 8. -10] opposing to them the teaching of Christ “Who taught only universal moral precepts, and for this reason promises a spiritual instead of a temporal reward. Christ, as I have said, was sent into the world not to preserve the State nor to lay down laws, but solely to teach the universal moral law” [Chapter 5, P03]. Thus Spinoza prolongs the line of thought historiography, which since Marcion sets the cruel Jahweh of the Jews against the Redeemer of the Gospel: “This goes so far that in the XIX. Chapter the philosopher uses the authority of the New Testament [… (Mt 5: 43)], to validate the statement that the law of the Moses teaches hate against non-Jews.” Their religion and Scripture turn the Jews into man-haters, and this hatred turns others into Jew-haters:
“Thus the love of the Hebrews for their country was not plain love, but also piety, and was cherished and nurtured by daily rites till, like their hatred of other nations, it must have passed into their nature. Their daily worship was not only different from that of other nations (as it might well be, considering that they were a peculiar people and entirely apart from the rest), it was absolutely contrary. Such daily reprobation naturally gave rise to a lasting hatred, deeply implanted in the heart: for of all hatreds none is more deep and tenacious than that which springs from extreme devoutness or piety, and is itself cherished as pious. The usual cause for inflaming such hatred more and more was not lacking either, inasmuch as the hatred was reciprocated; the surrounding nations regarding the Jews with a hatred just as intense.” [Chapter 17, P39]
Since they thought that they themselves were God’s children, and looked upon other nations as God’s enemies, they regarded other nations with intense hatred, “which they took to be piety, according to Psalm 139: 21, 22” [Chapter 17, P36]. Reasons for the extraordinary constancy and valour of the Jews included “a hatred for others not only permitted but pious”, “the awareness of being hatred by others”, “the singularity of their customs and religious rites” [Chapter 17, P40]. And Spinoza adds that self-interest, the strength and life of all human action, “was peculiarly engaged in the Hebrew state” [Chapter 17, P40].
In the Treatise Spinoza opposes Christ to the Old Testament, destroys the Jewish faith, and presents hatred as the very identity of the Jews and the cause of their “otherness”. After Spinoza’s political theology, the Jews are no longer the people loved by God and who loved God, but the people commanded by their God to hate the gentiles, and in their turn abhorred by them.
Undoubtedly it is Spinoza’s great achievement to have promoted the separation of civil and religious power for founding a political order which respects the freedom of persons. However by depriving the Old Testament of its divine origin and making the “hatred for the other nations” to the religious and social identity of the Jews, Spinoza gave the Enlightenment writers “the tools they needed to undermine the claims of organized religion”, and to get rid of the Jews as a religious people too. In this sense Spinoza can be considered the father of the modern secular anti-Semitism, “perhaps the most horrible form of contempt for the Jews”, Poliakov says.
“With the judgment of the angels and with that of the saints, with the consent of God, Blessed be He, […] we anathematise, cut off, execrate, and curse Baruch de Espinoza with the anathema wherewith Joshua anathematised Jericho, with the curse wherewith Elishah cursed the youths, and with all the curses which are written in the Law: cursed be he by day, and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lieth down, and cursed be he when he riseth up; […] and the Lord will destroy his name from under the heavens; and, to his undoing, the Lord will cut him off from all the tribes of Israel, with all the curses of the firmament which are written in the Book of the Law.”
Why this wrath and contempt directed at Spinoza? Although the Treatise was first published in 1670, Spinoza’s ideas were presumably already known before, and undoubtedly sounded to the Jewish community like “abominable heresies”. The members of the Council who condemned him give the impression to counter a threat to life. Did they prophetically foresaw that Spinoza’s demolition of Judaism as a Religion could become highly dangerous for a Jewish community? It is interesting to see that since it was enacted “the ban on Spinoza was never rescinded”: Still 2013 “after much thought and deliberation” the conclusion was reached that the governing board of the Jewish community in Amsterdam “should leave Spinoza’s ban in place.”
Charmed by Kant (and his fellow philosophers and theologians) the Jews in Berlin disregarded the ban and adhered to Spinoza’s ideas instead Mendelsohn’s ones. In a sense they were victims of a delusion comparable to that Bernie Madoff fashioned in 2008.
To circumvent lengthy, the post about Voltaire will follow later.
Thank you again for taking the time to answer my question. I greatly appreciate this.
Your response as quoted is related to the problem of evolution as I was discussing with @TedDavis. Today’s anti-evolution movement grew out of the Fundamentalist movement which was against the Higher Criticism (of the Bible), which originated in Germany.
From what I see now Higher Criticism had its beginning with the criticism of the OT by Spinoza. Thus YEC had its origins in the defense of Judaism and the OT against the claims of philosophy.
The problem with evolution for conservative Christianity was not the science, but the philosophy that attacked the Bible. The mistake of Fundamentalism was to insist that its theology of the Bible was the only one which was right and this has carried down into YEC.
The problem with BioLogos is that it has not addressed this theology of the4 Bible, but only the science, which is not the real issue for most YEC.
I find that we can only realistically address these important basic issues by looking at philosophy, science, and theology for solutions, because reality is rational, physical, and spiritual. I call this view the Framework of Understanding, which is also based on the One and the Many. If you are interested I will tell you more.
I agree that strictly speaking one cannot say that God “conceives a plan”.
In His omniscience He foresees all possible decisions we can freely make, and guides things so that each possible history reaches the aim He has for Creation.
I would be thankful if you could explain more in detail what you mean by “he also can’t forget you as unworthy”.
Antoine, I have a personal stake in this discussion involving Original Sin and how it could be transmitted. I have a great-grandson in his late teens who is excels in computer science and plans on a career in artificial intelligence. He is presently dating (but not yet engaged to) the daughter of an evangelical minister and attends their services, at least occasionally. If things proceed as it looks like they might, and they marry, they will face greater problems than they realize. He is aware of the problems I faced, and overcame, in retaining my Catholic Faith as I chose a career in science. Like me, he cannot reconcile the idea of a good God creating Adam and Eve in his image and then banishing them and all their descendants for an act of simple disobedience.
If they do marry, must he then become a hypocrite to preserve peace in the family; or should she compromise orthodoxy, and perhaps be considered a ‘black sheep’ in her family. I would like to present a reasoned argument to my great-grandson that allows him to profess the essentials of the Christian Faith even if it does not adhere to strict orthodoxy; i.e. to favor Original Blessing rather than Original Sin. Even if I could succeed, would that be wrong? In a previous post, i related how a colleague of mine faced a very similar situation, and the Good Lord provided a timely answer. (See "The Miracle of the Panel Truck’.) I cannot expect a second miracle for my great-grandson, and so I thought I must convince him on my own. But I cannot begin with a completely unsubstantiated (scientifically) statement: _“Angels were the first beings God created endowed with free will.”_Obviously if he is to benefit from Jesus’ message for salvation, my great-grandson must at some point, reach beyond reason and accept certain truths on Faith. But the argument in favor of what truths to accept on “pure” faith should not begin with Angels.
no single soul is unworthy to god so noone will ever be forgotten so your history is as relevant as anyone else’s history. Provoked by the idea to meet Hitler in heaven made me think that his repentence might have found acceptance I stand a reasonable chance. However we do not know what suffering he endured on his way and if like Judas he was neccessary for us to see something we needed to know to stop us from doing even worse things.
Anyhow thanks for your comments on Spinosa and others as food for thought.
You need to let your great-grandson know that what Adam and eve did was much more serious than simple disobedience. It was a betrayal of trust.
First of all, the serpent accused YHWH of lying.
Second, it accused YHWH of evil intent.
Third, Adam and Eve trusted the word of the serpent who did nothing for them over the Word of YHWH Who had done everything for them.
Fourth, they never took responsibility for what they did, and instead blamed others and ultimately YHWH.
Fifth, YHWH was their Creator and Landlord. YHWH did not charge them rent, but YHWH made a simple agreement with them that they broke for no reason. That is why YHWH evicted them from the garden.
Sixth, they did not want to abide by YHWH’s rules. They wanted to follow their own rules, and YHWH allowed them to do. This is the situation most people find themselves in today. Sinners are in the same situation that that Adam and Eve were in, which is why there is do much evil in the world today.
Good points Roger. It also seems to me that we miss the point when we look a Adam’s sin as one of the commission of the act of eating the fruit, when the real sin was the rebellion against God in his and Eve’s heart which led to the act. Jesus made it clear that if we rebel in out out hearts with anger, lust, and greed, we have sinned, no matter what our outward actions are. In addition, we are called to change our hearts, not just our actions.
It is very true that Jesus taught that sin was relational, rather than legalistic. Sadly the OT covenant deteriorated into legalism by the time of Jesus, so we need to use His perspective to see it in Genesis.
Sin is selfishness, not the bad behavior that results from selfishness. We are called to allow God to rule our lives, so we might be in relationship and harmony with Jesus as members of God’s Kingdom.
Thanks, Roger, for the good wishes for my great-grandson. He’s a great kid–young man , actually. And he has already experienced enough evil in this world to realize that humans, when they follow their own rules and refuse to acknowledge a higher source of moral law, they fall far short of their potential–they are truly flawed creatures. But how is he to embrace the reality that the Christian God is a God of Love? He may come to accept God as a Grand Designer, possessing an intelligence far greater than any A.I. he may concoct on his computer. But I want him to feel the love of God deep in his heart–a feeling that a Deist like Einstein or Spinoza must have missed
Currently my great-grandson believes he must accept the literal truth of Scripture to be saved as a Christian–i.e., he must believe in an actual talking snakewho tempted Eve to sin–that Lucifer and his minions actually posed a threat to God’s power. I doubt if he ever could accept that. (I can’t say I blame him.) I have tried to interest him in this Forum so he can see that there are intellectually gifted Christian thinkers who have found more than one way of reconcilng their religion with science. You, and @Antoine_Suarez, and I all want today’s youth to fully appreciate the joy of God’s love. The mind set of teen agers has always been difficult to fathom–even more so in this Age of Information and Social Media. A century ago the song, ‘Gimme that Old Time Religion; its good enough for me’ was quite appropriate. I’m sure there are ways of updating its presentation without diluting its core values.
Thank for your response and discussion of the problem.
It may not seem like it, but issue of a 6 day creation and a legalistic view of sin are very much related to the BAD theology which produced evangelistic Christianity. To whit, Bibliolatry, which means that Christians are saved by believing in the Bible, not by belief in Jesus the Savior.
With that said, please do not believe the lie that “old time religion” was based on willful ignorance and non-critical thinking. Do not allow “conservatives” spread that untruth. The good of traditional Christianity is based on love and caring, not legalism.
I have asked BioLogos to take on the bad theology that the Bible is the Word of God, taking the place of Jesus Christ the true Logos of God, but so far they are not done so. As the situation of your great grandson has shown bad theology has serious consequences. Either it will make him choose between his beloved and his integrity, which is a terrible choice, or she will have to choose between her family and her beloved.
She has the biggest problem because she needs to understand that her father is teaching bad theology. This is her Christian responsibility which means she needs to put God over the probability of serious conflict in the family.
However one interprets Jesus’ comment on the permanence of the Mosaic Law (Matt. 5:17-18), I feel comfortable with following the Spirit of the Law rather than a slavish obedience to its Letter. However, I’m not sure I am getting your full meaning when you say that _sin in relationa_l; or that sin is NOT the behavior that results from selfishness. I know you must wince whenever I give credit to Dawkins for coining the phrase “the selfish gene”. Even tho it is a gross simplification, there is a grain of truth to it, since all currently accepted theories of evolution seem to allow for selfishness being a factor in the results. But as Christians who believe that evolution is part of God’s plan, that evolutionary selfishness is NOT Sin, but when working together with cooperative factors of equal (or greater) importance (symbiosis, relational?) it has produced the marvelous variety of life that surrounds us.
The way I read the evidence from current archeology and paleontology is that our ancestors, the earliest Homo sapiens (along with a few other species acting on animal instincts) did display some elements of selflessness and empathy that mirrored those qualities possessed by God himself. Rather than being threatened by one of his creatures wanting to ‘be like gods’, as the authors of Genesis suggest, God actually invited Homo sapiens to accept the role of co-creator–of deserving of the title ‘image bearer’. So, as a Gift, He (somehow) ‘programmed’ the Homo sapiens brain to operate as Mind with a conscience that could lead the ‘animal’. H. s., to rise above his animal instincts and conform more closely to God’s will. But that newly-minted Mind could also be used to enhance the pleasures and the power of the animal instincts that nature had initially provided.
In my world view, this Gift of Mind was, for many thousands of years, used to build more effective human societies–more effective because they greatly multiplied the power of each individual member. Regrettably, it conferred enormous power to the leader of each society, and power became addictive. The Old Testament is (in my view) a history the attempts of Moses (and other human prophets) to reign in this lust for power. Unfortunately these efforts became bogged down in a legalistic maze, and it became necessary (as He must have always known) for God to ‘enter the fray’ Himself. And so Jesus was ‘sent’ (via incarnation) to teach us to love our neighbor as ourselves; that to be a true leader of others we must be their servant.
Roger, (and @Antoine_Suarez) to me this idea of replacing Original Sin with Original Blessing is most compatible with the worship of a Loving God. Is there ANY chance, even if it takes a century, of it becoming orthodox Christian faith? And if not, why not?
makes you stop early as 21 he clarifies his comment to relate to the commandments and 43 he really turns things on its head and shows in a number of exampled how the “derived laws” have gone astray from the original law in the whole section. Only in Matthew 22:40 you hear what the law is that Jesus really represents.
I notice your use of the plural in
but you do better to say
"to love our neighbour like we love each other" to emphasise the primary commandment to love thyself to relate to the sacrificial love to your own tribe that was understood to be the norm at the time, not your love for your individual self.
If you acredit "selfishness to genes you have to consider what the “self” of a gene is. It cannot be the material content of the gene,as that is getting lost in the replication / it’s creation process as it is a different set of molecules that makeup the new self. thus the self of the gene cannot be the gene itself. Its self is in it’s metaphysical self, it’s purpose as the transmitter of information if life itself, the will it carries of how to move energy and matter. Do you think you can credit Dawkins for understanding that? To my understanding he is a religiophobe and the principles of inclusive fitness originating from Hamilton are not to his credit, nor would he be capable of realising that the altruistic kin selection was already a known principle to the “primitive goat herders” of their time as after all they could never have been “brights”. If you want to understand evolution you only have to listen to those “primitive goat herders”, particularly Jesus, to explain that it is not about kin selective altruism but about integration of the “neighbours” that is the basic principle on “evolution”, the slow unfolding plan of creation.
What you can however credit Dawkins for is the introduction of the “meme”, the ability of the human to transmit supernatural information units, inherited information that is independent of the genetic transmission.
To come back to the origin of the thread is is intriguing to find the writings Ratzinger in 1964 looking at the idea of “nongenetic inheritance”, just using the old fashioned term “soul”, the metaphysical equivalent of the physical cell nucleus.I never read Razinger but should try to have a go - time permitting. Not sure from what he deducts"Erbsünde" to be a genetic disease at it would require a materialist to think “Erbsünde” to be the transmission of genes and not “memes”. My inheritance from my parents is material in form of money and assets, biological in terms of my human genome and my microbiome and spiritual in the form of non material values.
Considering Jesus comment to allow the children to come to him as the heaven is theirs, he suggests that the not all men are sinners unless they act as moral agents. The concept of self is normally seen to manifest around the age of 6 to 8, thus you cannot act selfish unless you are cognitively self aware. The clash comes in the teens when the self “materialises” in a person as to reject authority over the self, by acting out against given instructions, as poetically described in the story of the fall, culminating in the awareness of sexual privacy. Eating from the tree of “realisation” of the self, thus judging good and evil in relationship to the self interest separates one from all other selves thus in the position of sin / conflict with the overall self that is eternal creation. We should ask ourselves if it is logically coherent to judge a baby for its moral behaviour or to consider it in need of God’s forgiveness.
The prominence of the concept of original sin in religious teachings is the reminiscence of hell and purgatory being big business, as exploitation of the fear of eternal damnation was an exploitable concept. Before that, counting your blessings and the ritual of thankfulness for love and existence was the core value and we might eventually be able to return to it.
Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as our self. There is no place here for selfishness which is when we put ourselves first Period with only the crumbs left for others and God. We only need to look to 45 to see the true face of selfishness.
Some people like Dawkins oppose selfishness with selflessness, which is a false dichotomy, which allows them to justify selfishness. Christianity points to the truth in this matter.
Selfishness is relational, it is how someone relates to others in a negative manner, Love is relational in that it is how someone relates to others in a positive manner. Behavior comes out of the way we relate to others. Jesus said that the way we act toward others does not come from how they act toward us, but our heart, even though the way others treat us might make it easier to be nice to them.
Evolution as pointed out by E. O. Wilson proves that “The Selfish Gene” is a myth. Social animals are not by nature selfish and there are few if any animals which are not social. Social animals, including humans, rule the earth because they are not selfish, but work together based on instincts.
You put a great deal of importance on the mind, but there is no place in the science of Dawkins for the brain. Instead we have “memes” which control actions. Memes are controls by the genes, so it is genes which control behavior or animals and also humans because that is what he says, Humans dance to the music of the genes. Traditional understanding of thinking and behavior begins with instincts which are based in the nervous system which eventually evolves into the brain and mind.
God did indeed give humanity great gifts the mind and the ability to love. With every gift comes responsibility and temptation. We need to us our gifts to serve God, which means to build the Kingdom of God, where everyone will benefit, not just me, or my family, or my people. The more powerful we become, the more important it is that we work together for the common good, Who is God.
The Original Sin is the obverse of the Original Blessing. It is the failure to give God the love and respect God deserves, which creates sin and hatred between God and humanity, and against others. That is the problem we must face.
I am not sure whether I understand well the idea you try to convey. In any case I would not accept the assumption that everyone can be sure of his own repentance at the moment of death, and therefore his salvation, no matter how much crimes he has perpetrated during his life.
Think about the 9/11 attacks: They were perpetrated by guys who were convinced to reach salvation and that after death they would not have to account for killing people.
Hitler may have suffered realizing the complete failure of his project before he died. However others (e.g.: Stalin, Mao) died in their beds, at the zenith of their power, and without having been held accountable and brought to justice.
If you remove the perspective of divine judgement after dead, then the sense of accountability vanishes, and you open the door to any kind of wrong behavior: If one can escape justice on earth (or one doesn’t care about it), one has nothing to fear in the afterlife. It seems to me that this mentality is contributing to the flourishing of terror attacks and mass-murders in today’s world.