Thursday, March 18, 2010

Putting the Apostle Paul In His Place

Not much time this morning, but I'd like to spend it discussing this important new book, Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time, by Sarah Ruden.

In contrast to a destructive postmodern deconstruction of Paul, this is more of a constructive reconstruction, in that it attempts to interpret Paul's words in the way they would have been heard and understood in the almost inconceivably different time and place he wrote and spoke them.

Ironically, one of the main reasons we have difficulty appreciating the vast cultural differences is due to Paul's extraordinary success in transforming them. As Ruden points out, "more than anyone else, Paul created the Western individual human being, unconditionally precious to God and therefore entitled to the consideration of other human beings.... No other intellect contributed as much to making us who we are." Theist and atheist alike are beneficiaries of this profound transformation of values.

We have to begin by imagining a society that was every bit as cruel and barbarous as, say, the Palestinians or Islamists, to understand the context in which Paul spoke -- and, just as importantly, to appreciate the fantastic and even revolutionary appeal of the message he was spreading.

In our time, we can misinterpret Paul's words as punitive and restrictive, whereas those who heard them would have been struck first and foremost by the novelty of his liberating message of love, equality and dignity.

This itself is a critical point, because it goes a long way toward explaining how and why the Christian message took off like wildfire and spread so rapidly. "In fact, the compassionate community was there at the beginning, and its founder was Paul of Tarsus." It wasn't just the "good news" of the resurrection. After all, pagan peoples had been familiar with mythic stories of resurrected gods from time immemorial, but that didn't make their lives and communities any less cruel.

Rather, there was something uniquely alluring about the actual communities that were being created out of this new revelation -- mostly how they were ordered around love instead of the usual violence, depravity, exploitation, and cruelty of the ancient world.

The pagan polytheistic world "deified materialism in the form of idolatry," and "deified violence and exploitation through the belief that these were the ways the gods operated. Paul fought this ideology and all its manifestations. Rather than repressing women, slaves, or homosexuals, he made -- for his time -- progressive rules for the inclusion of all of them in the Christian community..."

Yes, Paul was a progressive in the truest sense of the word, because he was instrumental in the vertical progress of mankind at large. In contrast, contemporary "progressiveism" is a reversion to the very pagan materialism that Paul ultimately gave his life to end.

No wonder we see such a resurgence of neo-paganism on the left: idolatry, body mutilation, child sacrifice, new age witchcraft, earth worship, sexual license, the cult of the body, exaltation of the state (and its messianic leader), cult leaders with light streaming from their butt, etc.

It seems to me that the book understates its own importance, since, if the author is correct, then not only have many Christians been misinterpreting Paul for hundreds of years, but whole sects and even cultures are rooted in this misunderstanding. Furthermore, on the other side of the equation, there is no question that many people have rejected Christianity because its most important proselytizer appears to them to be a bit of an irascible, sanctimonious, authoritarian, and intolerant hothead.

JWM coined the term "Jesus willies" for people who are made uncomfortable by the moronic way Christianity is often presented to the public. But it might be more accurate to call them the "Paul willies," since he is the one most responsible for creating the thing we actually call Christianity.

In my book, I tried to get into a bit of psychohistory, in order to demonstrate the progress mankind has made (at least at its leading edge) in vanquishing its mind parasites (see Chapter 3.4 Adapting to Mindedness: Why the Past is So Tense). This is without a doubt the weakest part of the book, since it would have required a whole book to do justice to the subject. In pp. 157-162 I cover the ancient world, but again, how could one possibly do justice to such a vast subject?

Fortunately -- to paraphrase Bo Diddley -- I don't have to do stuff like that, because I got scholars like Ruden doin' it for me. While I tried to show what Greek and Roman culture were actually like beneath the veneer of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the rest of those luminaries, Ruden goes into more detail about just how alien to us these cultures were.

Their values were antithetical to ours, and again, this is the audience to whom Paul was preaching. Truly, his death at the hands of the state was inevitable, just as you wouldn't be long for the world in the Palestinian terrortories if you began preaching a message of love and tolerance toward Jews, or at a major American university if you preached that their racial obsessions are evil.

In addition to being violent and exploitative, the ancient world was frankly a depressing and meaningless place, especially if one was not a freeborn member of the ruling class. Most people were slaves or at least under some degree of servility, and slaves had no rights at all. Truly, they were not persons, but objects to be used in any way the owner saw fit.

Children were devalued as well. Pederasty and child prostitution were rampant, and no one gave it a second thought as to whether these practices were "moral." Likewise, what we know of as romantic love simply wasn't a value for the ancients. Indeed, Ruden shows that it was regarded as a kind of weak and shameful madness that was to be shunned and avoided.

To be continued....

62 Comments:

Blogger Jamie Irons said...

Bob,

You are probably already aware of this, but just in case you aren't, Sarah Ruden, whose superb translation of The Aeneid was published by Yale University Press, said after Yale cravenly pulled the "Mohammed cartoons" from a Danish author's account of the whole cartoon imbroglio, The Cartoons that Shook the World:

[My refusal ever again to accept bids on my work from Yale University Press in the future] is, first of all, a self-protective move. I don't think there's any coffee good enough that I'd enjoy being told over it that my finished, fully edited manuscript is going to be neutered because of a report I'm not allowed to see without swearing secrecy. Since I write about politics and religion, such a scene is a likely danger for me. (snip) Yale Press, after breaking a crucial relationship of trust with an author's mind and work, should be called a lickspittle of fanatics and forfeit any respect or consideration from other authors...


As a Yalie (Class of 1969, Molecular Biology and Biophysics) I was appalled by Yale's (and Yale University Press's) cowardice, but heartened by Ruden's courage.

Jamie Irons

3/18/2010 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Good on her!

3/18/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good thing Paul put an end to all that pederasty! Thanks to the Catholic Church that he founded, nothing like that could possibly occur today.

3/18/2010 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Well that's progress. At least anonymous has come out against homosexual priests.

3/18/2010 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you got rid of homosexual priests there wouldn't be much left of the Church.

More accurately, the church is full of sexual perverts, people who either are attracted by the church's sexual weirdness or twisted by it once they are in.

lifelong celibacy is the single most perverse human sexual practice, the single greatest deviation from any norm of human sexuality that we might reasonably identify.

Not that me or the author of the above think there's anything wrong with perversity per se -- do your own thing, man! -- but when it starts to victimize the young and innocent obviously it's gone too far.

3/18/2010 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

Compare The Symposium to official Catholic doctrine.

The difference is stark, to those with eyes that can see.

3/18/2010 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yet another book I need in my library. One of the things that helps in reading the Pauline Epistles is to understand that he is frequently addressing questions, whether implicit or explicit. Most of First Corinthians is based on explicit questions that Paul repeats, apparently verbatim, or summarizes, then answers.

Romans, conversely, is mostly his ultimate revelation riff up to about chapter 14.

3/18/2010 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

"If you got rid of homosexual priests there wouldn't be much left of the Church. "

Really? Got proof that the majority of the priests are homosexual?

Or that, in the absence of said priests, the rest of the members would simply throw up their hands and walk away and join some other religion?

3/18/2010 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Russell--

Yes, and the Symposium very much downplays the kind of depravity that would occur in these affairs. Plato's account was not typical of the genre, something which Ruden gets into.

3/18/2010 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

Which has puzzled me. Plato didn't like homosexuality (see his Laws wherein he proposes laws against them), so I thought he'd really play up the depravity in the Symposium.

I'll have to add Ruden's book to my list.

3/18/2010 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger pappy d said...

Paul doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves as a moral visionary. I haven't found any indication in scripture that Jesus considered Gentiles worth preaching to.

Given that the Catholic Church forbids homosexual acts among men, queers of faith were doomed to celibacy already. Why not cloister yourself with all the other gay men? Celibacy was originally imposed because straight clergy were bequeathing church land to their sons.

There's no admonition against female homosexuality in the Bible. I assume the Hebrew fathers thought it was kind of hot.

3/18/2010 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

pappy-d:

As I recall, we gentiles receive the crumbs that come off of the master's table, and indeed, based on how Jesus acts, it is likely that we will enter the Kingdom before the Jews.

anonyms:

You would be missing a good percentage of what is Christendom if you thought that presbyterial celibacy somehow was representative. Most Parish priests in the East are married; and there is even the case of a few bishops who were married (but lived in celibacy with their significant others, probably much as did some of the Apostles out of necessity: ain't gonna be doing much lovemaking running around the world getting into trouble.)

In other words, there is no connection between Paul and priest celibacy; it is simply a local variation that caught on in the West, whereas it did not catch on in the East.

I believe it happened because in the West, there was no stable political structure in much of the area - the church got political power placed in its hands, which ran into the problem of pastoral inheritance. In the east, being the priest or bishop was not a landowning/political thing, so just because my dad was a priest (or became a bishop) did not mean I was a shoo-in for his successor. There was no political power or economic power to be gained, I guess, except in big places like Constantinople, but even then you had the emperor kicking you around, maybe even exiling you for disagreeing with him...

3/18/2010 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger pappy d said...

Cool!

3/18/2010 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"While I tried to show what Greek and Roman culture were actually like beneath the veneer of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the rest of those luminaries, Ruden goes into more detail about just how alien to us these cultures were. "

Ever seen one of those tapestries that display one picture on one side, but negative relief of it on the other? It seems as if we look back on them, and seeing the side presented to our perspective, think that that is it image they saw from their perspective as well... but it isn't the case. While the much of the weavings are the same, their appearance differs greatly on one side, from the other.

Much as I revere those you mentioned, it's important to remember that even in something such as Aristotle's Politics, which identifies principle after principle critical to our, and our Founders, understanding of Politics and Freedom... they are presented right along with statements such as,

"Women who are with child should be careful of themselves; they should take exercise and have a nourishing diet. The first of these prescriptions the legislator will easily carry into effect by requiring that they shall take a walk daily to some temple, where they can worship the gods who preside over birth. Their minds, however, unlike their bodies, they ought to keep quiet, for the offspring derive their natures from their mothers as plants do from the earth.

As to the exposure and rearing of children, let there be a law that no deformed child shall live, but that on the ground of an excess in the number of children, if the established customs of the state forbid this (for in our state population has a limit), no child is to be exposed, but when couples have children in excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun; what may or may not be lawfully done in these cases depends on the question of life and sensation.
" and,

"Again, for the exercise of any faculty or art a previous training and habituation are required; clearly therefore for the practice of virtue. And since the whole city has one end, it is manifest that education should be one and the same for all, and that it should be public, and not private- not as at present, when every one looks after his own children separately, and gives them separate instruction of the sort which he thinks best; the training in things which are of common interest should be the same for all. Neither must we suppose that any one of the citizens belongs to himself, for they all belong to the state, and are each of them a part of the state, and the care of each part is inseparable from the care of the whole. In this particular as in some others the Lacedaemonians are to be praised, for they take the greatest pains about their children, and make education the business of the state. "

Being unaware of the differences between then and now, and the key developments along the way, such as perspectives of Christianity that have had such a major impact on the development of thought, can easily lead to a disasterous and tangled web indeed.

3/18/2010 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Jamie quoted "...should be called a lickspittle of fanatics and forfeit any respect or consideration from other authors..."

Ha! I haven't heard of her before, but it looks as if I'll have to remedy that. Thanks.

3/18/2010 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous son of a preacher man said...

Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
-Mark 16: 14 - 16

3/18/2010 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Russel said "Compare The Symposium to official Catholic doctrine."

Yes, and while I don't have the details in front of me, I'm pretty sure that translators like Jowett, Ross and most any translation prior to the early 1900's were heavily cleaned up and euphemised.

One of the frustrations I have in reading such classics, is having the benefit of a 'modern education', I've got to read them in translation... but then again, having read about some of the material that was cleaned up, I'm also glad at the same time.

Besides, it's kind of fun reading one translation alongside another, and trying to figure the original meaning out between them - yeah... I'm that bad.

3/18/2010 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Russell said "... so I thought he'd really play up the depravity in the Symposium"

One of the things I found really helpful early on, was the admonition to remember that Plato burned his plays, distrusting ideas committed to the written word, and wrote dialog's.

He didn't mean to merely transcribe what two or more people said, he meant to write dialogs which we the readers would continue on as active participants in. What gets lost I think in a lot of the commentary about his famous irony, is that he purposefully wrote of situations and statements which no thinking person (as opposed to someone reverently imbibing his every written word) should be able to tolerate and leave alone. We were meant to continue his dialogs ourselves.

There's one point in the Republic where Socrates leads Adeimantus & Glaucon up to the point of saying essentially "Yes, so to found our ideal city we should take the children from their parents to keep them pure, and send the parents away." and Socrates says "Sounds good to you?" and they agree. Pretty much anytime Socrates says something is agreed... you can figure, like with Meno, he's either written them off as unproductive dunderheads, or we are expected to take the statement and react "WTF!!!" and think it through further for ourselves. Even for the brutality of their times, the notion that you could just separate 8-10 yr old kids from their parents en masse without the least fuss, without having to murder the parents to keep them quiet, or with the expectation that the children would be pure and unaffected, was a bit much, to say the least.

Unfortunately modern people from Lenin to Pol Pot, didn't get the joke, and took it as the best of plans.

A little knowledge... is a dangerous thing, tends to make the most heinous evil look like common sense.

3/18/2010 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

Van:
"Even for the brutality of their times, the notion that you could just separate 8-10 yr old kids from their parents en masse without the least fuss, without having to murder the parents to keep them quiet, or with the expectation that the children would be pure and unaffected, was a bit much, to say the least."

Not to sound overly nit-picky, but the Spartans were doing just that. The more I learn of the Spartans, the more The Republic seems to be more of Plato saying their system was awesome, but here a few changes and adjustments to really get things right. But the more I read of Plato, the more I am left wondering if the old fellow wasn't trying to play a joke. You know, taking a few good ideas to an extreme position to get a response out of people.

"We were meant to continue his dialogs ourselves."

I think you are right. In many ways, I believe have done a decent job of it so far :)

3/18/2010 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Yes, a lot was lost about the philosophers, which is part of what 'the Consolation of Philosophy' is about - the misappropriation of the philosophical tradition, by those who read the philosophers and come to idolize them, mostly. Lady Philosophy is a personage not unlike the Mother of God (Mary) or The Church in 'The Shepherd of Hermas' representing, we should recognize, that philosophy is a living tradition (or ought to be) not just a collection of witty sayings we can use to dazzle and convince (Sophistry!)

It should also be noted that as a living tradition, it responds to trends and other things - for one, Revelation about God makes speculation about him official nonsense. (This is why Paul says that the knowledge of this world is passing away.)

Dionysius is helpful in this regard. I will however say, that sadly too often Philosophy is discarded because of this; if the ultimate knowledge is saintliness, why have any worldly wisdom at all?

If all men were saints we might have some actual kind of 'dialog' on that...

3/18/2010 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

My quibble: Paul would not say he founded or developed Christianity. He pointed ever back to Christ. His commissioning and revelation came direct from the Source ("an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God"). For example:

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. ...So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' "

Paul boasted in his weakness, and in Christ alone, the Church's one foundation.

3/18/2010 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"Rather, there was something uniquely alluring about the actual communities that were being created out of this new revelation -- mostly how they were ordered around love instead of the usual violence, depravity, exploitation, and cruelty of the ancient world."

"...for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." The world system will never be able to top righteousness, peace, and joy. People know the Real Thing when they see it. It's interesting that an authentic faith only multiplies and spreads under even the severest persecution (see, Diocletian; Church in China).

3/18/2010 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I don't know, Susannah, I understand your point that it's all about Jesus or it's worthless. As a former president might say, it depends on what the meaning of founder is.

If you look a that verse in 1 Cor 3 where he says "like a wise master builder, I laid a foundation ..." that sounds a lot like "founding". The foundation is Christ, but it was Paul's calling to do the building. He talks about his dispensation or administration of the mystery of God. So, if there's no Paul, Christianity is just an oddball sect among some Jewish heretics.

Paul "planted, Apollos watered but God gave the increase". The farmer is one who plants the seeds; the founder is the one who lays the foundation.

Just quibbling with a sister.

3/18/2010 03:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Jason T. said...

Greetings Bob and all. I am a regular reader of the One Cosmos forum and find it not only spiritually nourishing, but fairly entertaining as well. It's like waking up to a great big bowl of organic raisin bran with EXTRA FIBER!, keeping me regular with bursts of plump flavor. And, there are always some trolls around to add the taste nutty goodness onto my spoon!

There is a question I have been wanting to ask the Raccoon community for a while, and now is as good a time as any, I suppose. It is concerning diet, in particular the consumption of animals.

Now, there was a time, towards the beginning of my vertical recollection, when I became a vegetarian. This was very healing for me, and after a couple of years I began integrating fish into my diet a few times a week. All was well and good, and, offering thanks to God for the experience and continuation of my life, I felt morally safe partaking.

Then, about 8 months ago, I felt an internal pull to eat beef. Not only that, but to literally go into McDonalds of all places and order a double cheeseburger. So I did. While eating the thing I offered many prayers and focused upon Communion, and it became an integrative, healing, shadow owning, and spiritually trans-formative experience.

Since this experience I have had a loosening of the strictures of my diet. I eat meat twice a week or so (not strictly) and use it as an opportunity to pray, sending love to God and the world community as a whole. If possible I eat free-range organic meat, but it is not mandatory. Additionally, I find myself eating sweets and 'junk food' more frequently than I have in the past, with very little sense of remorse or shame. As long as I exercise I feel this to be natural expression of my current stage of development.

But I have had a vision creeping into my mind over the past couple of months, it being the source of my desire to reach out to this community. It goes a little something like this:

I see a race of alien beings on another planet raising humans in the exact same way we do cows, chickens, and pigs. They fatten our species up with gruel, prompt us to work with the pain of the whip, then send us to slaughter in a series of ingeniously constructed machines, utilizing every part of the human body for one thing or another. This idea gives me the willies.

This scenario leads me to contemplate my interaction with animals on this planet, not only the ones I eat, but dogs and cats as well. I have had some special bonds with these furry beings, one could even say friendship, and no doubt felt deep affection for them. The thought of consuming my kitty is NOT COOL, yet they share similar capacities to a pig, of which I ate just last week.

What I am getting to is this: what makes an animal a pet or food? Is it simply a mindset? What makes a human a human and not just an animal? If vertical and transcendent identification is what makes us 'human as such' are those of us strictly identified with horizontal reality ripe to become food for something else? Do beings that are touched by Truth, Love, and vertical self consciousness receive protection from Above?

Mainly, though, I am curious about the diet of those present in this community. If any here would be willing to share their experiences and ideas I would be greatly appreciative. And if Bob wants to speak on the traditional/esoteric/evolutionary/coonish ideas revolving around this subject I would gladly send him a non-local high-five, complete with a new Energy insignia for his utility belt (he is the Batman, of course).

Sincerely With Gratitude,
Jason

3/18/2010 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Mushroom:

Cooncur. I'm pretty sure that the idea that Christianity is solely a product of Jesus is a piety -- which is fine -- along the lines of the Jewish belief that Moses wrote the Torah, when non-believers know that that's impossible. But I don't criticize a devout Jew for believing it.

It's important to remember that Paul's letters are from prior to the writing of the Gospels, and it is entirely plausible that some of Paul's ideas were back-written into them.

And why not? Traditionalists have no problem with this, since for them, the Bible is a result of tradition, not vice versa. Indeed, the idea that the Bible is inerrant certainly didn't come from Jesus, much less from Paul, since Paul had no idea that his passionately tossed off letters would become part of a permanent canon.

In any event, Ruden, who is a believer, has no hesitation in saying that "The evidence is strong that the full Christian doctrine came not from Jesus' mouth but from Paul's pen." And I would go even further, in that it required hundreds of years -- i.e., the first seven Councils -- to arrive at a coherent theology to account for the Christ-event. Indeed, more is being revealed all the time...

3/18/2010 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Or, you could just say that words about the Word are not the Word....

3/18/2010 04:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Dietary Consultant XXX said...

Jason T:

I've given the matter of diet in relation to optimum behavior and have come to the conclusion that all things considered, it's best not to eat animals. Fish are another matter.

It boils down to two main issues: Efficiency and respect.

Animal consumption is not efficient, usually. It takes less effort to grow and eat a plant than to grow the plant, feed the animal, and then eat the animal. By going straight to the plant, you eliminate the middleman. Efficiency is a virtue in its own right; it needs no reason to pursue it.

Respect: Animals are a fairly complex piece of property owned by the Lord. When you eat one, you are disrupting a junior soul, inflicting pain and suffering, etc. It is an intrinsically disrespectful act. To eat an animal when plentiful tofu and fish are in the store is not best practice.

Fish, on the other hand, are not prone to huge suffering as we know it, and are efficient. There are no ways to harvest oceanic planktonic vegetation that work. Therefore, the fish are efficient.

Efficiency and respect. Two reasons to buy tofu and fish. And stay away from comples carbs, too. They are disrespectful to your body.

3/18/2010 04:22:00 PM  
Anonymous The Gulping Gourmet said...

Good grief, man, Jesus ate fish even after the Resurrection. I guarantee He ate lamb and beef.

Jason, my response is not at all official, but I do have one question: Have you ever read Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold by chance?

Jesus said it's not what goes into a person that defiles, but what comes out of the heart. My thoroughly unenlightened advice, since we are talking about St. Paul, is to eat what you can eat with a good conscience (cf. Romans 14). Let your physical health dictate your diet and don't make it a spiritual issue.

Felines are non-ruminant predators. Canines are predators and notorious scavengers. I personally avoid cats, dogs, coyotes, vultures, chicken and possum. Fox, I hear, is fairly palatable if you're hungry. Raccoons are off the menu for obvious reasons.

3/18/2010 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous The Gulping Gourmet said...

Animal consumption is not efficient, usually. It takes less effort to grow and eat a plant than to grow the plant, feed the animal, and then eat the animal. By going straight to the plant, you eliminate the middleman. Efficiency is a virtue in its own right; it needs no reason to pursue it.

You obviously live in a city and think all rural land is like the Imperial Valley. There are many areas where it is much more efficient to graze herbivores than to try and grow a crop of grain or vegetables. (Tofu is poison, like margarine, and soybeans, especially the GM variety are a plague on the earth.)

3/18/2010 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Russell said "Not to sound overly nit-picky, but the Spartans were doing just that."

The first time I read through Plato, I took him for a loon. When I came back to him with the poetic, hierarchical awareness, I began to let up on him a bit (I'm sure to his shades great relief), and begin to see huge amounts I'd completely missed when I had read him from an Objectivist standpoint. In the last few years I've really come to appreciate his dialogues much, much more - I still disagree with most of his conclusions, but there are few in the Western tradition that can point me to so many rich and deep veins of Ore. I would not be surprised to find I cut him too much slack now, but if anyone is worthy of it, Plato/Socrates is.

"The more I learn of the Spartans, the more The Republic seems to be more of Plato saying their system was awesome, but here a few changes and adjustments to really get things right."

Oh the Spartans were brutal alright, exposed infants, sent their young to training that had a good chance of killing them, sent the early teens out to hunt and kill among the slave population to see if they could do it without being caught, and on and on and on - but that was to maintain, ensure and defend their society - I don't think even the Spartan's would have entertained the thought of taking their children away to start a new society... not without responding with a new Thermopylae.

But admittedly that's my assessment of Plato, and I know of many over the last couple thousand years who would disagree with me. But again, IMHO, the point is to spark our thinking through and carry on the conversation, and it appears to me that you are also doing just that.

3/18/2010 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Jason T. said "What I am getting to is this: what makes an animal a pet or food?"

Not to get too orthodox, but whether or not they go well with "Sweet Baby Ray's" BBQ sauce, plays a big factor in the evaluation.

3/18/2010 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

DCXXX said "Efficiency is a virtue in its own right;"

General note: anyone who makes any sort of moral decision on the basis of efficiency, is most likely like the gent from Twilight Zone episode who came 'To serve mankind'... medium rare and with a sprig of garnish.

3/18/2010 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Jason T. said "I see a race of alien beings on another planet raising humans in the exact same way we do cows, chickens, and pigs. They fatten our species up with gruel, prompt us to work with the pain of the whip, then send us to slaughter in a series of ingeniously constructed machines, utilizing every part of the human body for one thing or another. This idea gives me the willies."

While I get the point, there really is no reason to think of Washington D.C. as being on an alien world, and as for the machinery of the public school system you describe, yes, it gives me the willies too.

3/18/2010 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Jason T. said...

I appreciate anyone whom has responded to my inquiry. I am looking for a variety of view-points on this, so I am thankful to whomever pipes up.

Jason

3/18/2010 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Anonymous re:

"Not that me or the author of the above think there's anything wrong with perversity per se -- do your own thing, man! -- but when it starts to victimize the young and innocent obviously it's gone too far."

Sounds as if you agree with Paul. Its good to know you recognize and defend innocence. Good job, you have stated a moral absolute. There may be hope for you after all.

3/18/2010 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Van re:

"Even for the brutality of their times, the notion that you could just separate 8-10 yr old kids from their parents en masse without the least fuss..."

Van, aren't you forgetting Sparta? I believe Plato was a great admirer of Sparta, and its ways.

3/18/2010 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Jason re:

"What I am getting to is this: what makes an animal a pet or food?"

Answer 1: The degree of hunger you are experiencing. Answer 2: Pets are easier to catch and cook than wild animals (efficiency rule).

Bon appetite

3/18/2010 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"So, if there's no Paul, Christianity is just an oddball sect among some Jewish heretics. "

I'm not certain God is so utterly dependent upon us as all that. :) However, yes to everything else you wrote. I differ with Bob on inerrancy issues but he already knows I'm a "fundie." ;) (Although only in the loosest sense of the term--the fundies probably wouldn't have me...a charismatic.)

3/18/2010 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"What I am getting to is this: what makes an animal a pet or food?"

If you name it, it's a pet. Unless it's a steer or a pig and you name it "Ribs" or "Boston Butt" or something.

FYI, if you bottle-feed it, it will most likely be a pet as well (i.e., baby goats).

We told our kids not to name the last three hatches of chickens. ;)

3/18/2010 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Susannah re:

"So, if there's no Paul, Christianity is just an oddball sect among some Jewish heretics. "

From a practical point of view there is no Biblical indication that Jesus was literate. Someone had to do the writing.

3/18/2010 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"Animal consumption is not efficient, usually. It takes less effort to grow and eat a plant than to grow the plant, feed the animal, and then eat the animal. By going straight to the plant, you eliminate the middleman."

Hm, so far our animals eat bagged stuff from Tractor Supply, and bugs. And apple cores and other compostables.

I have no objection to vegetarianism, so long as it's not militant. People seem to thrive on whatever they have handy to eat. The Inuits, et al. do not seem to have much problem majoring on animal fats, for instance. Omnivores, I'd call us.

3/18/2010 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Susannah said: I'm not certain God is so utterly dependent upon us as all that. :)

You're probably like me and have heard the argument both ways. Mordecai's admonition to Esther -- 1) that she had come to the kingdom for such a time as this, and 2) but God could raise up another deliverer if she refused -- comes to mind.

When I was "working for the Lord" more openly I always thought I was pretty much an interchangeable part of the body -- subject to transplant you might say -- depending on whether I was "worthy" or not. I am no longer so sure about that.

What I do know is that He is the Vine, we are the branches. You can have the nicest, fattest vine in the world, but if you ain't got branches, you ain't got grapes.

I think Paul was pretty essential and was chosen if ever anyone could be. He would have been dragged into the kingdom kicking and screaming, as Lewis said of his own conversion.

3/18/2010 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Tigtog said "Van, aren't you forgetting Sparta? I believe Plato was a great admirer of Sparta, and its ways."

I think my 05:15:00 PM answers that?

3/18/2010 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

From a purely spiritual perspective, it's not what but why you eat. For Surely you know that all the food that enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then goes out of the body. But what people say with their mouths comes from the way they think; these are the things that make people unclean.

3/18/2010 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

TigTog: Luke 4:

"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day,***** and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,*****

'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'"

Emphasis mine. Guess I didn't have to post the rest of the passage, but it always gives me goosebumps, so I did. :)

3/18/2010 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Mushroom--I agree with you. I don't believe we are interchangeable. Paul WAS chosen to bring light to the Gentiles and to articulate Christology, and all that. He could have refused, I suppose--free will, and all that. But that was a pretty dramatic "intervention" on the Lord's part (road to Damascus). I can't imagine anyone refusing Him under those circumstances. It would take some "cojones," as those less ladylike might say. ;) OTOH, the same omniscient, omnipotent Lord can use Satan himself if He sees fit. He has brought about some things through folks who've raised my eyebrows, that's for sure.

3/18/2010 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Tigtog said "From a practical point of view there is no Biblical indication that Jesus was literate. Someone had to do the writing."

I'm not that boned up on the details of Jewish culture at that time, but from what I do know of the time, it seems highly unlikely that Jesus would have had the knowledge he had, and have been illiterate, only because Jewish religion and teaching is sooo oriented around 'The Book'.

And with the goings on in Alexandria, I'd be surprised to find that he wasn't literate in Koine Greek as well.

Course, there's no evidence to indicate that Socrates was literate either (NOT suggesting any equivalence there)... but it's highly unlikely he wasn't, yet he left nothing in writing either.

3/18/2010 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Amen, Susannah.

3/18/2010 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Susannah's quote from Luke doesn't exactly lend itself to notions of Jesus's illiteracy either.

3/18/2010 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/18/2010 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Jesus was far from ignorant or unlearned. If you take the Word seriously, you must regard him as one "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Paul did; those are his words. Which takes me back to my point about Paul...always pointing beyond himself to the One who is before all things, and in whom all things consist. Which is in no way inconsistent with Christ's testimony about himself.

Everything communicated through Paul to us is literally from the Spirit of Christ, who is **himself** the gospel (good news). Apart from being in Christ, what was all of Paul's learning, by Paul's own testimony? "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ..." Or as Jesus taught it: The hidden treasure, the pearl of great price.

3/18/2010 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Jason T. said...

Petey-"From a purely spiritual perspective, it's not what but why you eat."

This has been my experience, that intention, volition, and state of being is very important in determining the spiritual health of consuming, which then resonates within the body.

3/18/2010 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas Sebring Jr said...

"From a purely spiritual perspective, it's not what but why you eat. For Surely you know that all the food that enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then goes out of the body. But what people say with their mouths comes from the way they think; these are the things that make people unclean."

Yes, and then there are those for whom what comes out of their mouths resembles what comes out of the body for most people; i.e, many members of Congress (and no doubt what comes out of most people's bodies is what is contained in their craniums).

3/18/2010 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

OT: I know these "Red Letter" brothers mean well, but you know what they say about the road to hell.

G. Beck aside (I have never watched his show--we don't have tv), to my thinking, this is different from "G-d d-m America" Wright's theology only by degree.

In fact, Mr. Red Letter himself defended the Rev. Wright in this manner: "To we white folks, Jeremiah Wright sounds threatening. But we might ask ourselves if we deserve to be threatened."

This is one of my biggest peeves...read John 6 and tell me that Jesus was all about a "social gospel."

3/18/2010 09:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Dietary consultant XXX second round said...

Food is a matter of expediency. However, remember that animals cower, squirt blood and fluids, scream, and experience extreme terror before death. It is murder. Brutal, merciless, and ugly. Shouldn't we factor that in?

I think that's what Jason T. was getting at with his dream about the alien people-eaters. Could't we send a delegation to tell them to trt dairy instead? It seems so obvious.

I mean, why not? Jason, don't be afraid to stand up and say the lassaiz-fair food attitude is certainly the way things are done now, but how about a change? Nothing wrong with it.

Off topic, but look at the vulture. It does not kill vegetable nor animal. It simply cleans up after a death by natural or other causes. It does not even destroy vegetation. It uses vigilance, and trust in providence, to make its way. And yet the creature has a bad rep. But it is blameless above others such as us.

An artificial intelligence, powered by a photovoltaic cell, would be the most innocent of creatures.

On the other extreme, in the absence of other food sources, cannabalism is fully justified.

Food is a matter of expediency.

3/18/2010 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Susannah re:

"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day,***** and he stood up to read."

Good catch. I did not remember this citation. So my earlier statement is incorrect, there is Biblical evidence that Jesus was literate. Still, it is apparent He never left us any direct writings, much less any second hand observations by his Disciples written contemporaneously. We know Him through the collective memory and writings of his Disciples. This remembered lens is good in that it distills and concentrates the essence from the extraneous. I guess my next question is were all he Disciples literate?

3/19/2010 04:30:00 AM  
Anonymous maineman said...

Susannah, Wallis is a reprehensible shill for the left, having been a lefty first and foremost for decades and seeming now to be a darling of the NPR/moonbat set. If I'm not mistaken, he's seems now to have been anointed as the spiritual propaganda czar by the practitioners of the dark arts who currently infect the upper reaches of our government.

I was unfortunately given "God's Politics" as Christmas gift a couple of years ago, and it didn't take long to see the man's infested with the usual mind parasites of those who live in horizontal-land and try to project upward.

3/19/2010 06:38:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A "liberal X" is always a liberal first, X second. Thus, a liberal Christian is a liberal who gives his liberalism a veneer of Christianity. Same with liberal economists, liberal psychologists, liberal historians, liberal Jews, liberal journalists, whatever.

3/19/2010 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger pappy d said...

@son of a preacher man said...

Thank-you very much. I stand corrected. It's so irritating when someone on the web is just wrong! I never thought it would be me.

3/19/2010 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

"Interestingly, when Paul uses the word "faith," he is doing so in an unprecedented way. Ruden says that "Before Christianity, neither the Greeks nor the Romans seem ever to have used the concept in what we could call a spiritual sense." Rather, for them, it was much more analogous to what we would call "protection," or having someone to watch one's back. For pagan polytheists, it was analogous to having faith in one's fellow gang members to strike back if one is punked by a rival gang."

Its funny that no one has discussed the difference between Christians and polytheist with regard to the after life. Within Greek/Roman religions the concept of a heaven did not exist. When you died you died, unless you were a hero and elevated to demigod status. Further, within the Jewish tradition the focus of behavior was on the immediate material world. Their strength, like a lot of ancestor worshipping cultures was on the family. The Christians were one of the first religions to speak of a heaven and connect entrance to it based on personal behavior on earth. It is this concept that pretty well establishes the core of Christ's teaching. I said that Christians were one of the first, the other religion would be the Persian based Zoroastrianism. This two monotheistic religions held followers personally responsible for their behavior, encouraging right behavior, as a condition of salvation. While the Jewish world did indeed conceive of a heaven, birthright versus behavior was your ticket in.

I am quite taken by the amount of Zororastrianism that was syncretised by Christianity. Pretty much the entire book of Revelations structurally comes from the Avesta. The concept of heaven and hell and the battle between light and dark forces makes up the core of Zoroastrianism. This is a new discovery (theory/speculation) for me. If anyone knows of any quality writers who cover this comparison please let me know. (I believe Jung saw these connections).

3/21/2010 02:15:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

"Interestingly, when Paul uses the word "faith," he is doing so in an unprecedented way. Ruden says that "Before Christianity, neither the Greeks nor the Romans seem ever to have used the concept in what we could call a spiritual sense." Rather, for them, it was much more analogous to what we would call "protection," or having someone to watch one's back. For pagan polytheists, it was analogous to having faith in one's fellow gang members to strike back if one is punked by a rival gang."

Its funny that no one has discussed the difference between Christians and polytheist with regard to the after life. Within Greek/Roman religions the concept of a heaven did not exist. When you died you died, unless you were a hero and elevated to demigod status. Further, within the Jewish tradition the focus of behavior was on the immediate material world. Their strength, like a lot of ancestor worshipping cultures was on the family. The Christians were one of the first religions to speak of a heaven and connect entrance to it based on personal behavior on earth. It is this concept that pretty well establishes the core of Christ's teaching. I said that Christians were one of the first, the other religion would be the Persian based Zoroastrianism. This two monotheistic religions held followers personally responsible for their behavior, encouraging right behavior, as a condition of salvation. While the Jewish world did indeed conceive of a heaven, birthright versus behavior was your ticket in.

I am quite taken by the amount of Zororastrianism that was syncretised by Christianity. Pretty much the entire book of Revelations structurally comes from the Avesta. The concept of heaven and hell and the battle between light and dark forces makes up the core of Zoroastrianism. This is a new discovery (theory/speculation) for me. If anyone knows of any quality writers who cover this comparison please let me know. (I believe Jung saw these connections).

3/21/2010 03:41:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Tigtog said "Within Greek/Roman religions the concept of a heaven did not exist. When you died you died, unless you were a hero and elevated to demigod status."

Again, I'd remind that the modern barbarization of the Romans & Greeks is more than a bit heavy handed, one obvious chink in that is Cicero in his "Dream of Scipio", one of the earliest and best summations of the roots of Natural Law, where he says,

"For I am far from agreeing with those who have of late promulgated the opinion that the soul perishes with the body, and that death blots out the whole being.1 I, on the other hand, attach superior value to the authority of the ancients, whether that of our ancestors who established religious rites for the dead, which they certainly would not have done if they had thought the dead wholly unconcerned in such observances;2 or that of the former Greek colonists in this country, who by their schools and teaching made Southern Italy3 — now in its decline, then flourishing — a seat of learning; or that of him whom the oracle of Apollo pronounced the wisest of men, who said not one thing to-day, another to-morrow, as many do, but the same thing always, maintaining that the souls of men are divine, and that when they go out from the body, the return to heaven is open to them, and direct and easy in proportion to their integrity and excellence. This was also the opinion of Scipio, who seemed prescient of the event so near, when, a very short time before his death, he discoursed for three successive days about the republic in the presence of Philus, Manilius, and several others, — you, Scaevola, having gone with me to the conferences, — and near the close of the discussion he told us what he said that he had heard from Africanus in a vision during sleep.1 "

BTW, if you can get Niall Rudd's translation of Cicero's The Republic and The Laws, it's a goodie.

3/21/2010 01:32:00 PM  

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