Re: MD God relieves from suffering?

From: Elizaphanian (
Date: Mon Apr 28 2003 - 11:52:49 BST

  • Next message: Paul Turner: "Re: MD What is a living being?"

    Hi Wim,

    This is an interesting thread.

    You said:
    : According to Kuitert (and I agree with him) we should not use 'God' as
    : reference to 'a personlike someone' who can relieve from suffering. If doing
    : so is characteristic for the Christian church (as Platt implied), then the
    : Christian church is mistaken. According to Kuitert attempts to rectify this
    : mistake date back to the Church Fathers, however. Apparently there is a
    : discontinuity between your 'theological circles' and the 'wider audience' in
    : this Christian church. Platt's statement must have referred to the last.
    : Christians do but should (according to their leaders) not 'look to God for
    : relief from suffering'.

    I think that the 'relief from suffering' comes through finding meaning, ie that in the face of
    terrible events (either personal or wider) our sense of value is not destroyed, but can - possibly
    in a different form - be maintained. It is ultimately a denial of absurdity, which I think is
    possibly the most fundamental divide between religious and non-religious outlooks. In Christian
    terms it is the difference between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I think what Kuitert is
    criticising (and the Fathers before him) is the idea that there is a god who will intervene to
    prevent such suffering from happening to a believer; that's a superstition, as I see it. That's not,
    as I recall, what Platt was referring to, but I may be mistaken on that.

    : You read Kuitert's 'creating images never leads one to real transcendence'
    : as a potential (and according to you unjustified) criticism of Eastern
    : Orthodoxy's use of icons.
    : I think the 'truth' in Eastern Orthodoxy is, that 'real transcendence' can
    : lead one to create images that can 'latch' some of that transcendence and
    : that those who know that transcendence can recognize it in those images. I
    : agree with Kuitert, that it is not the creation of the images that leads one
    : to the transcendence. It is certainly not by just looking at icons that are
    : created by others that 'real transcendence' can be experienced for a first
    : time. That would be another (and according to me more problematic) example
    : of 'consumer religion': those who experience transcendence 'produce'
    : something to latch it and the 'wider audience' of their church just needs to
    : 'consume' it to experience that same transcendence... As a Quaker I am
    : extremely distrustful of such a suggestion. I don't think 'Protestant
    : iconoclasm' has solved that problem, either. Protestant theologians
    : 'producing' theology to be 'consumed' by their 'wider audience' is
    : essentially the same kind of 'consumer religion' that Quakerism sought to
    : escape by stressing direct divine guidance of everyone, 'priesthood of all
    : believers', 'that of God in everyone' etc.

    I agree that icons cannot simply be 'seen' for what they are - the eye needs training. Yet this is a
    precise instance of SQ enabling DQ, as I would see it. I don't recall your ever answering my point
    (from many months ago) that, even with Quakers, there is a 'tradition' of SQ guidance, however spare
    and ascetic it might be. If there was no tradition, there would be no such thing as a 'Quaker'.

    : The main point, linking in with our discussion of the MoQ, is however that
    : you disagree with Kuitert's use of the word 'myth' implying 'not to be taken
    : seriously' when he writes: 'According to [the Church Fathers] the biblical
    : depiction of god is that of religious myth and not to be taken seriously;
    : the biblical images of god are appearances'.
    : You give two reasons:
    : 1) 'the mythos shapes our logos, so, in a historical/genealogical sense we
    : need to understand myth in order to be able to think at all. Science has its
    : own mythos (and mystique, and priests and rituals) just as much as, in this
    : intellectual sense, a religion'
    : 2) 'our cognitive faculties are irreducibly narrative in structure ... This
    : has the interesting corollary ... that mythologies resist exhaustive
    : abstraction - that you can't do without the symbol or the story, however
    : much you quarry it for abstract intellectual insights.'
    : I read what you wrote 23 Apr 2003 15:12:39 +0100 as an explanation:
    : 'I would say that mythology is level 3 thinking; level 4 thinking operates
    : on the basis of the relevant level 3 foundations.'
    : You end with the question what are the myths that I 'live by' (which I take
    : to mean: 'that found my level 4 thinking').
    : The problem for me is, that 'level 3 thinking' doesn't exist in my version
    : of the MoQ. Thinking (manipulation of symbols created in the brain that
    : stand for experience) only occurs at level 4. Level 3 only contains
    : unthinking behavior. If I locate mythology at (the lower end of) level 4, I
    : see no need at all (except to understand its history/genealogy) for higher
    : quality thinking to stay founded in myths. High quality thinking (conscious
    : creation and manipulation of symbols, images, stories and even metaphors and
    : paradoxes in order to better 'latch' DQ experience) cannot depend solely on
    : scientific data gathering and reason. It also requires intuition and
    : empathy. A 'whole' human being can tune in to nascent patterns of value
    : beyond level 4, to 'Meaning', and found thinking there.
    : Only if the existence of 'Meaning' beyond 'reason' is a 'myth' to you, can I
    : admit to 'live by' a myth... (but I don't suppose it is).

    This is clearly a difference between "our" MoQs. I do see thinking as occurring at level 3. For me
    the distinction between level 3 and level 4 is primarily about self-awareness and the ability to
    make decisions according to values that are chosen rather than inherited. The ability to think
    (manipulate symbols) happens on both levels (and is what restricts those two levels to humanity,
    rather than the animal kingdom - I see thinking as coterminous with use of language, in other
    words). The difference I see between 3 and 4 is therefore one of the dominant values. The dominant
    values of level 3 I see as expressed by the governing mythologies, within which humans think and
    act. All level 4 thinking is built upon this level 3 mythology (however freely it might then
    evolve), in just the same way as human language is built upon the biological apparatus (larynx etc)
    of level 2. I don't think that it is possible to think without mythology; the question that level 4
    opens up is 'which mythology'. It is the ability to discriminate between mythologies (and therefore
    laws and metaphysics etc) which marks the autonomous individual, in my view.

    I see meaning as a synonym for value, and both as synonyms for Quality. Perhaps my question, in
    terms of your MoQ, might be better phrased as 'what are your guiding values', or 'what is your
    ultimate meaning'. What is the star by which you navigate your life? As I see it, a religious
    outlook is one which acknowledges such a star. A secular outlook denies the possibility of


    "When we speak of God we do not know what we are talking about. We are simply using language from
    the familiar context in which we understand it and using it to point, beyond what we understand,
    into the mystery that surrounds and sustains the world we do partially understand" (Herbert McCabe)

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