Re: MD Philosophy and Theology

From: Scott R (
Date: Tue Apr 15 2003 - 23:40:23 BST

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    > Scott replied:
    > I don't see them as "beginning with the conclusion", but as "beginning
    > revelation". And the first thing they must do is account for that
    > (called apologetics). The ways they have accounted for it are varied, but
    > common one amounts to "it just is the case that I have faith in this
    > revelation, by the grace of God".
    > dmb says:
    > See. This is what I'm talking about. When asked to justify or explain
    > giant, GIANT truth claims, the answer is only "I have faith". Frankly I'm
    > baffled that you and Sam don't see why this sort of thing as a problem.

    I think it is a problem when truth claim seems to me absurd (like thinking
    that the Bible is literally true). But now that many theologians treat
    biblical statements more or less mythologically, we're talking about
    something else.

    > don't see how you can adopt this stance and simultaneously claim theology
    > be intellectual. I'd say it is non-intellectual at best. It borders on the
    > irrational.

    So how do you explain this:

    [DMB from another post]
    "but I think Orpheus has a hold of
    me. Don't know what that means, exactly. I just know he rocks my world"

    Theologians have become very alert to the mindlessness that you (correctly)
    criticize in "that old-time religion". This does not mean that they -- or
    anyone -- can prove their assumptions. Why do you find value in myth, or
    mysticism? I think that you do for the same reason I do: It helps explain
    the world better than the assumption that myth and mysticism is merely the
    product of "primitive" culture and/or addled brains. But I don't see how you
    can prove this.

    > dmb says:
    > Yikes. You're mixing mystical experience and sectarian theology in
    > ways here and I hardly know what to make of it. But I just wanted to point
    > out that, yes, of course, some things are not "answerable by reason
    > but it does not follow that we ought to suppliment this inadequacy with
    > irrational reasons or unreasonable rationalizations. I mean, there is a
    > world of difference between the pre-rational and post-rational modes of
    > thinking. So if reason alone is inadequate, the answer is clearly NOT to
    > rely of something even less reliable than reason.

    I rely on the assumption that the Buddha, and Franklin Merrell-Wolff are
    sincere, authentic reporters of their experience. I see no way to prove that
    assumption other than to draw rational consequences from it and find that it
    makes more sense of the world. But no matter how encompassing that "more
    sense of the world" is, I cannot avoid that it is based on something other
    than reason. How do you avoid it?

    > DMB asked:
    > > Is it fair to say that theologians are
    > > encouraged or even free to question the Church's central doctrines? The
    > > distinction between social and intellectual levels, in this case, seems
    > > revolve around the issue of authority and freedom.
    > Scott answered:
    > The answer depends on which Church and when. A Protestant theologian --
    > now -- can write whatever he damn well pleases, as long as he doesn't
    > pretend to be speaking for the institution of which he is a member. A
    > Catholic can also write whatever he damn well pleases -- now -- as long
    > he does not hold a theological teaching position in a Catholic
    > Hans Kung had his license to teach theology at Tubingen revoked. So
    > Catholics are restricted when they are considered to be speaking for the
    > Church, though lately they can get away with quite a lot that is at
    > with Church doctrine. This is partly because Catholic doctrine has itself
    > gotten a lot looser since Vatican II. In any case, the line as to what is
    > allowed and what not is fuzzy.
    > DMB says:
    > He can write and say whatever he pleases, "as long as he does not hold a
    > ...position". Well, that doesn't sound like intellectual freedom to me.

    It's not, and I didn't say it was. The Vatican is a social and political
    institution, with what it sees as a higher need than intellectual freedom,
    namely the spiritual well-being of the world. You and I will disagree with
    it, but we didn't sign up with it in the first place.

    > Losing your job and career is a very real and very punishing penalty.
    > be fooled just because we don't burn people at the stake anymore.
    > Persecution and the exercise of authority come in many forms.

    If you join a political party, should you then be allowed to speak in direct
    opposition to that party's platform and not be expected to lose your
    position in it?

    > Scott continued:
    > Matthew Fox got into trouble because he is a priest, and so his writings,
    > being contrary to doctrine, were seen by the Vatican as a case of one if
    > preachers preaching the wrong thing -- and being "in your face" about it.
    > would consider him a theologian, since what he wants is to change, or at
    > least radically reinterpret, Catholic doctrine. If he were not a priest,
    > then his books would not have aroused controversy -- he would be just
    > another ultra-liberal Catholic. I would say that Huston Smith's "The
    > Religions" was not a theological book (call it comparative religion), but
    > his "Why Religion Matters" is, if one stretches theology to include
    > non-sectarian work. It is a sort of apologetics. Watts is also sometimes
    > theologian-like, when he promotes and explains Zen, though again that is
    > stretching things a bit since Zen has no God, but Psychotherapy East and
    > West is not theological. Just my thoughts.
    > DMB says:
    > Matthew Fox is wrong, in your face, a radical reinterpreter and an
    > ultra-liberal, eh? Whew! Any chance the Vatican has you on its payroll?

    Read it again. I did not say that Fox is wrong. I was merely explaining why
    the Vatican dumped on him.

    > think Fox is doing exactly what needs to be done; he's saying that we have
    > to give up the quest for the historical Jesus in favor of the Cosmic

    I agree with this, though should point out that the quest for the historical
    Jesus is not something the Vatican thinks much of either.

    > In other words he wants to abandon literalism in favor of mysticism.

    Most, if not all Catholic theologians also want to abandon literalism. Not
    so many are in favor of mysticism, or rather, they acknowledge it (for
    example, by naming John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila as Doctors of the
    Church), but are still nervous about encouraging it to all Catholics
    world-wide. It is definitely no sin to be a mystic.

    > Remember the old saying quoted by Pirsig? That the Cardinal gets nervous
    > when a Saint enters the Parish? Matthew Fox springs to mind when I think
    > that. It a classic conflict between freedom and authority, between
    > experience and doctrine.

    Yes, because the Cardinal is responsible for running a social institution,
    and also has to wonder whether the saint is a St. Francis or the next leader
    of a suicide cult.

    > Huston Smith, too, emphasizes the mystical. These guys have a profound
    > respect for religion and spirituality, enough to devote their lives to it,
    > yet they were not restrained by doctrine or authority. As such, I think
    > all go beyond theology even as it is included in what they're doing.
    > not likely to find these guys saying anything like "it is just the case
    > I have faith in this revelation." They'll say something more like what
    > Campbell said; "I don't need faith. I have experience."

    So if you don't have mystical experience you should be an agnostic? I

    - Scott

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