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09 July 2007 @ 08:35 am
A Socratic debate: Socrates Meets Jesus

Done in the same style as Socratic debates you may have read before. Like a child, Socrates asks an authority figure (Jesus, in this case) a slew of simple questions. When you start taking all the answers into account, however, it turns out they're really not that simple...
mqstout on July 9th, 2007 01:35 pm (UTC)
That's awesome!
zra42 on July 9th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)
It would be more interesting if Jesus' responses were restricted roughly to things actually attributed to him by the Bible. However the dialog could be nearly fixed, in terms of historical accuracy, if "Jesus" were replaced with "Augustine," for example. Even so, using Jesus(or Augustine) as a mouthpiece for "whatever fundamentalist Christians believe" is a bit uninformed.
Miusheri: Thomas Painemiusheri on July 9th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
Then I ask, what would Jesus say? ;)

Growing up Lutheran, I was told that if something was in the Bible, you were supposed to believe it. If it wasn't in the Bible, you were not supposed to believe it. So for instance, to be truly Lutheran (and therefore Christian), you were supposed to believe in the creation story and in the resurrection, because those were in the Bible- but you were not supposed to believe in Purgatory, because that is not in the Bible. Admittedly, I don't know if that's necessarily "fundamentalist," or what you have to do to be a Christian. In other words, I wouldn't mind some clarification...

- What do "fundamentalists" believe, and what does non-fundamentalist Christianity believe?

- Why do these beliefs differ? Are they getting information from different sources, or are they interpreting one source (e.g. the Bible) differently?

- Doesn't it have to be an all-or-none proposition? Isn't the quality "Christian" binary- i.e., you either are or are not? If you accept certain parts of the Bible and reject others as figurative or antiquated, doesn't that mean you're not 100% Christian- therefore, not Christian, because it's a binary trait? If it is okay to ignore or dismiss as figurative certain parts of the Bible, then who decides what parts of the Bible are okay to ignore? Since all of it is the Word of God, I don't see how one can reject/dismiss as figurative any part of it and still call himself Christian.

- Isn't it troublesome that the one source of knowledge about God that allegedly came from God himself- the Bible- can be interpreted differently, accepted/rejected as literal in part or in full, and be subject to mistranslation? In fact, there were several other "books" that could have been in the Bible, but they were left out. By whom? By a committee that got together and voted on what books were and were not the Word of God. This has happened several times throughout history. So, what is and is not the Word of God is undoubtedly in dispute, and very few people can agree completely on it.

If I were an all-loving and all-powerful deity, I would desperately want all of my children to know how to get to heaven (let's leave all the then-why-did-he-make-us-imperfect? stuff aside). Shouldn't I want to make the path to heaven- the instructions that I leave them under the name "Word of God"- crystal clear for all of my children? Being all-loving, I would think I should. Being all-powerful, I should also be able to do so without any difficulty.

If we had such a source of God's Word- one that remained entirely unchanged and unmodified for the past several thousand years, one that did not contradict itself, one that everyone agreed on, one that everyone could understand in exactly the same fashion no matter what his mother language- I think that would be more compelling evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian god than the very fallible, contradictory, subject-to-cherry-picking-and-misinterpretation Bible we actually do have.
zra42 on July 9th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
Yes. The Bible is tricky. I usually try not to concern myself with what religious people say about it. Also, trying to figure out how/why it is used by particular flavors of Christianity is too hard for me, and I have no interest in defending them.

But! Reading it is easy. In fact, it's possible to read everything that Jesus said in the Bible in an afternoon. If I recall correctly, in the gospels according to Mathew, Mark, and Luke, he mostly just gives some general guidelines. The rest of the new testament(including the gospel according to John) is people putting words in his mouth. It's really kind of spectacular.

The rest of the Bible is interesting to read, too, though it is pretty hard to follow sometimes. When I get lost, I refer to Azimov's Guide to the Bible. It puts things in a historical context without religious overtones.
Aikidoka, dreamer, seeker, general purpose geekmanycolored on July 9th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
Eeek. Way different flavor of Lutheranism than I grew up with. Ours was sort of midway between Lutheran and Unitarian I suspect, in that we were never taught about hell. It was more like, "Sin is when you do something that causes harm, and it makes God sad because he hates it when one of his children hurts another one."
Miusherimiusheri on July 9th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
I wish we weren't taught about hell! ^_^* I was scared to death of it when I was little, and I wasn't able to shake off that fear- and realize there was nothing to worry about- until just a few years ago.
mqstout on July 10th, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)
Then again, isn't Lutheranism one of the sects that has predestination?
Miusheri: Thomas Painemiusheri on July 10th, 2007 01:50 pm (UTC)
If so, I don't remember it being taught. There are a couple of flavors of Lutheran, though, so it may well exist in one of them.

Predestination doesn't make any damn sense in the Christian mythos anyhow. It'd mean that God programmed us all to sin, so how can he get pissed when we're just doing what he's making us do? We don't have a choice in the matter.

And if anyone tries to make predestination jive with free will, I may as well just bash his/her head into a wall repeatedly for them. =P
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policyt3knomanser on July 9th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
Hardly Fundamentalism. There was a great deal of Catholic Doctrine thrown in. Protestants don't exactly have the same conception of "Original Sin". The "War in Heaven" is a Miltonian invention that became embodied broadly across Christian Religious thought, but is, at its core, heretical. Of course, the claim that Satan was the serpent is not supported biblically at all- this does not keep most modern Christians from believing in it.
zra42 on July 9th, 2007 04:21 pm (UTC)
Right. I have the tendency to say "fundamentalism" when what I really mean is "stuff that doesn't make sense." I suppose my point really is that it is just as uninformed to use Jesus as the mouthpiece for Augustine(or Milton or whoever) as it is to use him as the mouthpiece for fundamentalism.

To be sure, my quibble is not with the spirit of the piece, only with the straw-man aftertaste it leaves in my mouth.
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policyt3knomanser on July 9th, 2007 04:37 pm (UTC)
Jesus was used as the mouthpiece of modern Christianity. All of the most objectionable segments are positions espoused by major sections of Christianity. Much of what was discussed was direct (or close) quotes from the biblical Jesus.

If anything, the most "strawmanish" aspect was the fact that Jesus argued like a retarded six year old, and many times, his statements didn't follow the flow of the conversation. Of course, if you've read any Socratic Dialogues, that was about how they always read- it's stylistic. Socrates is always erudite and clear, his opponent is always blunt and clumsy.
zra42 on July 9th, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
"Much of what was discussed was direct (or close) quotes from the biblical Jesus."

I must have skipped those parts.
Miusheri: Thomas Painemiusheri on July 10th, 2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
Well, the short list...

Stuff from the gospels (i.e., allegedly out of Jesus' own mouth):
Matthew 4
Matthew 7:7-8
Matthew 17:20
John 12
John 14:6
John 15
John 17

Stuff not in the gospels, but in the Old Testament that should've been kicking around back then... and Jesus was Jewish, so he had to subscribe to it:
Leviticus 10:9
Exodus 34:14
Exodus 20:13
Exodus 20:3
Genesis 3 (though the serpent is not referred to as Satan)
Job (indeed, what a fine loving god that is)

Then for your dose of fire and brimstone, I give you...
Revelation 20

As for free will, it goes both ways...

Again, the claim was that "much" of what was said came from Jesus, not all of it.
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policyt3knomanser on July 10th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
As for free will, it goes both ways...

And belief in Free Will is in no way a requirement of Christianity (Calvinists spring to mind). And I'm sure that if you asked a Calvinist, they would strong defend their hypothesis, which is strongly supported by biblical evidence.

This, in my mind, demonstrates the weakness of faith as a decision making process. Once you admit it into the conversation, any manner of conflicting opinion can be held without any way of resolving them- in matters of faith, no one can prove that their faith is correct.

Contrast this with the Scientific Method and other rational decision making tools- the only time we have large disagreements are situations in which we have insufficient evidence. But all disagreements can be resolved with evidence- right up to the point when someone abandons the Scientific Method and holds it on "faith" that they must be correct.
zra42 on July 11th, 2007 07:35 am (UTC)
The encounter with Satan in Matthew 4 is interesting. Firstly, because it doesn't appear in Mark except as two short verses, and secondly because we see Matthew's habit of quoting the Old Testament with wanton abandon even when(especially when?) it doesn't make any sense.

Since Mark was written earlier, most people think that Matthew 4 is embellishment, and not actually the words or actions of the historical Jesus. Even so, Deuteronomy and Psalms are certainly not being quoted here for emphasis.

Jews at the time were expecting a Messiah in the form of a David-like super-king warlord who would conquer the oppressive Romans. So Matthew had to explain why that's not what they got. The temptations by Satan, and Jesus' responses serve as that explanation. The first temptation explains why Jesus didn't improve the economy; he was there to induce moral and ethical regeneration only. The second explains why he didn't do a bunch of spectacular magic tricks; he was there to win hearts through kindness, etc.. In the third he rejects the traditional interpretation of the Messiah as a powerful king.

Matthew could have just said all that, but to him, for some reason, it was important to link nearly everything about Jesus to some part of the Old Testament. So for that reason it is very difficult to attribute these quotes from Deuteronomy and Psalms to the historical Jesus himself.

As for the others, except for the ones from John, I'll take a look at them later. John is... kind of ironic here in the sense that it is largely a didactic fiction in which the author has put his words in the mouth of Jesus much like Plato put his words into the mouth of Socrates. There really isn't much of the historical Jesus leftover there.
Brandonprice on July 10th, 2007 10:25 pm (UTC)
Jesus reads very much as a socratic Jesus, rather than the historical or mythological one.

It still boggles my mind that non-believers opt to enter the debate in this fashion. It's all the absurdity of evangelism pointed at the opposite end result.
Annoying Pant-leg Pulling Chihuahua of Justice!stardragonca on August 5th, 2007 06:49 am (UTC)
There is a Sage in Kentucky.