Thursday, 1 June 2017

A Time Of Legends

Copied from the Religion And Philosophy blog:

(St Paul and the philosophers. Dig it. That is where I would be.)

SM Stirling, The Scourge Of God (New York, 2009), Chapter One.

Catholics and Wiccans find that they are living in a time of legends and do not like it.

"'But even Our Lord was refused when he asked that the cup pass from him.'" (p. 46)

This I do not get. What happened in antiquity?

(i) Pagans sacrificed animals to many gods.
(ii) Jews sacrificed animals to one God.
(iii) Jesus' followers believed that he was the Messiah who would lead them to victory...
(iv) ...but were traumatized by his execution as a criminal - conclusive proof that he was not the Messiah.
(v) Therefore, they reinterpreted scriptures as prophesying that the Messiah must suffer, then rise.
(vi) Paul interpreted the Crucifixion as a perfect sacrifice ending sin, the Law and every other sacrifice.
(vii) Pauline Christianity fitted the Roman Empire which wanted monotheism without divisive dietary laws or repeated animal sacrifices.
(viii) But do we now believe in the efficacy of sacrifice?

I do not understand how this belief can make sense now. Of course, if someone believes that the Resurrection happened, then they have to believe that the Crucifixion also happened and has some significance but what? I do not buy:

all have sinned;
therefore, all have deserved to suffer and die;
but Jesus took it all on himself;
but, being perfect, could not stay dead;

CS Lewis' soft sf assumes the truth of Christianity. Poul Anderson's and SM Stirling's Christian characters discuss their beliefs. Christianity remains widespread in the real world. So it merits discussion.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I admit to finding some of your remarks here puzzling. I agree with your point (iv), at first the disciples of Christ were plainly traumatized, believing Him to have been ONLY an executed criminal. But I disagree with your point (v) because those disciples saw a Christ literally risen from the dead, not a mere myth or metaphor. And the incident of Christ meeting two disciples on the road to Emmaus was where they truly began to understand how the OT referred to Him. Incidentally, that was one huge reason why the Catholic Church rejected Marcion's advocacy of repudiating the Old Testament.

I also disagree with your point (vi), because I don't believe St. Paul "invented" the belief in Our Lord's death on the cross being an atoning sacrifice. I believe that came straight from Christ Himself, with His repeated declarations the He had to suffer (and from various OT texts, such as the Suffering Servant oracles in Isaiah).

But all men HAVE sinned. As far back as we can trace mankind, we find AMPLE evidence of how flawed and imperfect the human race was and is. And I believe it makes logical sense to conclude this imperfection of mankind necessarily separated the human race from God. A gulf which God freely chose to "bridge" by the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ. Jesus could not stay dead because He is also God as well as man.

I also think Christianity would not have SURVIVED if the apostles had been only a pack of cowards who then knowingly cooked up a fraud about Our Lord rising from the dead.


Paul Shackley said...

It was not a fraud. The disciples believed in a spiritual Resurrection. The Evangelists wrote it up as a physical Resurrection, introducing the tomb burial, the empty tomb and the visible, tangible resurrected body. I suggest that the man on the road to Emmaus was a stranger who consoled and inspired two disciples by interpreting scripture in the way that Jesus had. This led the disciples to reinterpret scipture as prophesying Messianic suffering and resurrection. The Evangelists described this as the risen Jesus himself explaining scripture to the disciples. To this day, Evangelicals claim to have met or encountered the risen Lord although they do not mean by this that he visibly entered a room, shook hands, spoke audibly, sat at a table and shared a meal.

Paul Shackley said...

I have just seen the Wonder Woman film which is about Greek gods and the nature of mankind. Another powerful myth.

Paul Shackley said...

St Paul doesn't mention an empty tomb. Crucifixion victims were thrown in mass graves. Paul implies an earth burial when he compares the resurrection to a seed going into the earth and rising as a plant. He distinguishes between the physical body and the spiritual body and ridicules the idea of looking for the physical body - like looking for the seed after the plant has grown.
Peter's Pentecost sermon does not mention an empty tomb or point to it as evidence. Peter bases his argument that a Resurrection has happened entirely on his interpretations of texts. He mentions resurrection appearances once parenthetically as a backup to his scriptural argument. He does not cite evidence: who saw what when where for how long? "We are witnesses" could mean we can give testimony of our experience, as modern Evangelicals claim.
Matthew's Gospel says that some doubted even as they saw the risen Jesus. The story remains open-ended right from the start.

Paul Shackley said...

I attribute human evil to our evolution, not to inherited original sin, and we are finding ways to address it.