From True Love To Christian Theism

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I'm sorry I haven't been able to contribute more directly to even commentary (much moreso main posts!) here on the Cadre Journal recently.

So, to help alleviate that a little--! {g}

I occasionally quip, in dialogue with sceptics of various sorts, that I believe in orthodox trinitarian theism... because I believe in atheists!

And that's true. But although it can leave the impression that I'm talking about atheists sniping at each other or contradicting one another, that isn't in fact what I'm talking about. I do notice such things, but such things don't factor in much to my beliefs.

So, let me present an example of what I am actually talking about, that in one way is broader topically than saying "because I believe in atheists", and in another is more personally particular.

Let us say (which happens to be true) that I love a particular agnostic more than anyone else in the world.

Would any of our visiting sceptics care to cogitate on how my love for her would lead me eventually to accepting orthodox trinitarian theism as true?

Obviously, it doesn't do so immediately. {g} And her specific beliefs or lack thereof aren't principly important. Nor is her specific relationship to me what is principly important. What's important, for the discussion, is that I truly love a person other than myself.

So: what does (or can) it even mean, to truly love her? And what corollaries follow from truly loving her (whatever that means)?

(I could, of course, compose a galumphing huge essay on this; but I've already posted up one of those this week--see immediately previous entry. {g} So I'll just leave this up instead for discussion among any interested parties. Guests are entirely welcome to substitute your own love for another person as the exemplar for the questions under discussion.)



Jason Pratt said…
Just a note for comment-tracking purposes. {g}
Anonymous said…
Yes yes..."blah blah blah, atheists are incapable of love...blah blah blah, hellfire and perdition."

*yawn* Do you have anything new to say, churchie?
Jason Pratt said…
Actually, the whole point of my post depends on anyone, including non-Christians, being capable of true love.

Sceptical (including atheistic) guests were invited:

a.) to consider their own true love for a person;

b.) to discuss what it does (or can) mean, to truly love that person;

c.) to discuss what corollaries follow from truly loving that person;

d.) to consider how I might arrive at accepting orthodox trinitarian theism from my love for another person.

(a) through (c) (and (d), in a way), as discussion points, requires that I believe that atheists (and other non-Christians) can truly love someone else. If your eyes and ears weren't squinted shut from yawning, you might have noticed that. {lopsided g}

Also, I'm one of the (few) orthodox universalists around here; so while I do believe in hellfire and perdition, I'm much more likely to be applying that to me and other Christians than to non-Christians. And I'm vastly less likely to think that any wrath of God (or love of God, for that matter) is dependent on what beliefs, per se, a person holds; so I don't think non-Christians are especially up for zorching simply for being non-Christians. (Quite possibly less so.)

I've mentioned this before, more than once, and I seem to recall you being around at least once when I did. But, if you don't bother to listen in the first place, you'll never be able to recognize if someone is saying anything "new". (A lack of attention hampers your ability to accurately criticize and oppose what is actually being talked about, too, btw.)

Anonymous said…
So how do you reconcile your heretical beliefs, with, for example, the bible? Or with bible-believing Christians, such as, say, Fred Phelps?

:) (By the way, *THAT* is an emoticon!)
Anonymous said…
Oops, that was me above.
Jason Pratt said…
More than one kind of emoticon, Gol. {g!} I like ASCII smilies, too, and I even positively admire the artistic creativity that I've seen put into their creation. (I'm especially fond of the one that looks like Kenshin Himura--which I don't have the skill to reproduce. {sigh}{s})

But it wasn't the 'language' spoken on the CServe forums where I first got muchly involved in the internet; so while I can usually read it, I 'speak' the other more easily.

To briefly answer:

1.) Frankly, in my experience it's the non-universalists who end up having to advocate heretical theological positions (even when they wouldn't otherwise mean to). I don't reconcile orthodox trinitarian theism with those people. I do try to point out that if they're going to advocate orthodox trinitarianism they should avoid turning around and denying parts of it later; otherwise they should start advocating some other theological position instead.

2.) Much like orthodox trinitarian theism itself, I find there's a very strong exegetical case for universalism when the data of the Judeo-Christian scriptures (or, heck, even just the Jewish Tanakh) is put together as a comprehensive whole.

3.) Of course, to a certain extent, the exegetical case is going to come down to the question of: why should one set of data be interpreted in light of another set of data?--or each set in light of some overarching principle, which in practice is what any such exercise fetches up at. That comes back to metaphysics.

When I'm dialoguing with people who already are supposed to be advocating Nicean-Chalcedonian orthodoxy (for whatever reason or reasons), I can try to point out that, as I find to be the case, universalism follows as an exclusive corollary from orthodoxy: i.e., we should appeal to what we believe we've learned to be true about God as the standard for what to believe about God's salvation. All theists accept this in principle anyway (even when they haven't thought it out in practice very far). At worst, our debate will go back to more fundamental issues prior to beliefs about salvation; where each side will, again at worst, be able to get a clearer idea of exactly what theological doctrines we believe and how coherently we're applying them. (Not infrequently, I'll run into opponents who, when pressed on the matter, simply decide to disregard having a coherent theological position. Not my problem. {g}{shrug})

Obviously, not everyone accepts trinitarian orthodoxy anyway. But then, I have dozens of other things to be dialoguing and debating with them about before we're in any position to do something more than simply compare beliefs about salvation with one another.

It's a very huge topic, both scripturally and metaphysically. Which is why my brief reply here can't look so brief. {s}

Since this is an ecumenical journal, I don't typically post up original entries arguing in favor of orthodox universalism. Careful readers can find subtexts in some of my entries along that line; but I reserve most of my direct discussion of the position for the comments--or, more recently, for posts and comments at the new forum, where I cohost as an invited author.

Anonymous said…
None of this theological jibberish matters. When you people start using those ridiculous words, you sound like you're bickering about who would win in a fight between Unicron and the Death Star. I stopped reading your response somewhere in the fourth paragraph.
Jason Pratt said…
So, what you're saying is that I shouldn't take you seriously when you ask a question. I mean, if you ask someone who would win in a fight between Unicron and the Death Star (which clearly would be Unicron at short range and DS at long range, btw {g}), on a fandom page dedicated to such topics, then you ought to expect an answer on that topic.

And again: if the topic doesn't matter to you, then go away. No one is forcing you to show up and hurl invective and insults at us.

But then, I somewhat doubt you'd be voluntarily showing up to hurl invective and insults at us, if the topic didn't in fact matter to you. Unless you're simply one of those people who will say anything regardless of what you actually believe or care about, in order to get attention for yourself. In which case we might as well ban you; and certainly should never even try to respect your comments.

So: would you prefer me to take you seriously, as an opponent? Or not? I would prefer to respect you as a person--which has strong connections to the topic of my original post, btw. But... {shrug} I certainly have other things to be doing with my time, if you'd rather I not take you seriously.

Anonymous said…
No, you haven't been taking my questions and comments seriously at all. All that you've ever been able to respond with is a pile of theological gibberish interspersed with your pathetic excuses for "emoticons".
Jason Pratt said…
Theological jibberish (and/or gibberish), and "ridiculous" terminology, would be ineptitude. But they still might be given by someone who was taking the question seriously.

On the other hand, describing the topic as being like bickering about who would win in a fight between Unicron and the Death Star, and rejecting the topic on that ground, is certainly a refusal to take the topic seriously in principle regardless of any aptitude or lack thereof in discussing the topic.

I'm reasonably sure that I was not the one who dismissed the topic that way, after you asked a question on that topic.

Specifically: when you asked (in very insulting terms, btw), "how do you reconcile your beliefs with the Bible? Or with Christians such as so-and-so?", my reply was not that such a comparison would be like bickering over whether Unicron or the Death Star would win, thus rejecting any pertinent value in answering your question. You were the one who retorted with that.

I took your question seriously; but you showed that you weren't prepared to even take the topic of your question seriously, and mocked me for trying to answer your question at all.

You also complained about it being theological jibberish and ridiculous terminology; but that's irrelevant to whether the topic is even worth being seriously discussed.

Thus I repeat: do you want me to take your questions seriously, or not? If you do, then I recommend you not mock the topic of your own question afterward, as though the topic on which you asked the question is not worth discussing.

I have taken your other comments in this thread seriously, too. Thus, when you charged that I was claiming atheists were incapable of love, I didn't reply that the topic was not worth discussing. I replied that you were factually incorrect about what I was claiming: I have never once, anywhere, including in the original post, claimed that atheists were incapable of love. On the contrary, at least three (maybe four) important elements of my post require that I believe atheists are capable of true love.

When you mentioned hellfire and perdition, I didn't reply the topic was not worth discussion. I replied with (by my standards) a fairly brief remark about my beliefs concerning hellfire and perdition.

When you asked if I had anything new to say, I didn't reply that this topic was not worth discussing either. I replied that until you pay better attention to what I'm actually saying, you won't even be in a position to know whether I'm saying something new to you or not: since it is a fact that you thought I was saying one thing when everything in my original post (not to say all my other posts) involves the opposite; and since it is a fact that I have mentioned my beliefs concerning hell and condemnation around you before, including in your favor (in several ways), but you clearly didn't pay enough attention to remember I had ever done so.

Those are judgments of mine about your aptitude (or lack thereof so far in this thread); but they do take your comments and questions seriously, rather than blowing them off as irrelevant. And they do involve respecting you seriously as a person.

Relatedly, I'm pretty sure that I'm not the one in this thread who has constantly been throwing insulting remarks at the other person and treating everything the other person says on any topic with nothing but contempt.

To give a minor example: I'm not the one who has been calling the other person's emoticons "pathetic", after having *yawned* exactly the same category of emoticon I typically use (with different punctuation setoffs) in his first comment. Come to think of it, neither am I the one who has been picking a fight over proper and pathetic emoticon usage, while sniffing dismissively about bickering over whether Unicron or the Death Star would win in a fight.

Had you not been so dead-set in dissing me, no matter what, you might have avoided those self-contraventions.

In any case, there is certainly no point in me even trying to discuss whether my reply to your question was only ridiculous gibberish or not, so long as you consider the topic of your own question to be not worth your time talking about. For, the only cogent reason to make that kind of comparison, between whatever I'm saying and whatever Fred Phelps (for example) is saying, is to tell me you will not consider any answer I give you to be worth your time, in principle.

Layman said…

I think it would depend on whether the unicorn can use its weapons at faster than light speeds. This has always been the Achilles heel of the Star Destroyer. Sure they can go fast, but they can't use their lasers at FTL speeds.

The Enterprise, on the other hand, can fire photon torpedoes at FTL speeds. So it could pick apart the entire Imperial Fleet without breaking much of a threat and without exposing itself to harm. Not to mention the fact that the Enterprise could just beam aboard explosives.
Jason Pratt said…

Now, introducing unicorns into the debate changes everything, you know... {gg!}

I doubt any number of unicorns would be able to take down even a Star Destroyer, much less the Death Star. Admittedly, according to AD&D rules (and basic D&D, too, as I recall), they can teleport, but only a limited distance. So, while that would give them a real advantage once they got inside, they'd have to be shuttled in closely first. But then, once in, they'd be at numerous disadvantages: no real defense against ranged weaponry of any kind, no range-fire ability themselves (some video-game representations such as Archon notwithstanding), limited ability to manipulate levers and control pads (and probably lack of relevant knowledge to do so anyway)...

Gosh, the novelist in me is actually intrigued by the conceptual challenge of having unicorns assault the Death Star... {lol!} It would either be over ridiculously fast, or it would be a heartachingly epic victory against ludicrous odds.

(Spaceball unicorns might be able to travel at Ludicrous Speed, though... giving them the range, via inertia, to get in and out on a feasible commando run of some kind...)

Unicron, however, is a giant planet-eating Transformer. Verrrry different strategic and tactical options. Between Unicron and unicorns, I'd typically put more money on Unicron (who has developed himself specifically to destroy planetary-sized objects)--but he'd still need to get in close. If he approached from the correct angle and warped into range, game over for the DS. (But his warp capabilities don't seem that finely tuned.) Any other angle and distance, and the DS's planetary beam (...crap, I've forgotten the technical name... I feel so ungeeky... {sigh}) would at least cripple him badly; probably allowing time for a recharge shot to finish him off, even without sending out TIE Bombers, fighters, etc.

If the Emperor and/or any Dark Jedi apprentice is on board the DS, more problems for Unicron, too. Though now that I think about it, unicorns might work better against them than against various Imperial troopers...

Anonymous said…
Once again, JRP, I see nothing of substance in your reply, only a wall of text consisting of theological gibberish.
Jason Pratt said…
Before I ask "could you be more specific about what you don't understand", I want to know whether you're going to consider any reply I give you to be taken no more seriously than bickering about whether Unicron would beat the Death Star.

If so, there is no reason at all for me to try to discuss it with you.

But if you're going to take the topic more seriously than that, then I'll ask: which parts of my reply did you not understand?

(I am supposing you're talking about my actual answer to your question about why I'm a universalist and how I deal with non-universalist Christians; because neither of my two most recent comments had any theology (per se) in them at all, and one of them only referenced terms that you yourself had brought to the comments.)

Anonymous said…
I simply don't care about the theological wall of text that you vomited up in your first reply. Universalist? Yes, I'm sure you believe that the universe exists. Eschatology? Take that to the bathroom, please. Etc, etc, etc.

I simply refuse to acknowledge jargon from you--whether it's in curly-brackets or not--that serves only as proverbial smoke and mirrors. Try again in English, please.
Jason Pratt said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Pratt said…
Or, to put it more briefly (and deleting my previous comment, because I think I'm being too snarky):

I'm not going against "the Bible", and I'm the one being orthodox in my theology, not heretical.

But since there isn't any point in simply answering that ("are too!" "are not!" "are too! Nyah!"), I spent a little time in my first reply discussing the principles of how I debate and dialogue with other Christians on the topic, when they agree with me (at least in theory) about a large set of theological beliefs already.

After which, since going into detail about scripture and theological reasoning would either be irresponsibly brief (here's a prooftext, there you go, that settles it) or far too large for a comment, I gave you an address where you can go to see what I do concerning details. (And still only a little bit so far there, proportionately to what I could do; but it's a lot more than I do here at the Cadre, for a reason I also took the time to mention to you.)

Any detailed discussion on a technical topic, though, is going to involve terminology. If you don't want to learn the terminology, fine; then avoid the discussion, too. You'll be happier. But the terminology (like "eschatology"--which doesn't show up on this page or its comments before you brought it up, btw, but which is relevant to the discussion) has meanings. They aren't meaningless, and they aren't being used as a smokescreen. They're being used as a shorthand so we can get on with discussing the issues without always having to stop to talk at length about the meanings the terms refer to. And even then, we still have to stop and try to work out what a term means and when, sometimes.

The set of words that are typically translated as "everlasting" and "eternal" and "forever" in the New Testament, for example, don't literally mean any of that, and don't necessarily have to mean those things in translation and interpretation. But that can make a difference in what "the Bible" says on the topic.

The word that used to almost always be translated "ruling" in the 19th chapter of RevJohn, in reference to what the returning Jesus is doing to those final rebel kings, is actually the word "shepherding" in Greek, and is always used that way elsewhere in the New Testament--in a positively helpful and caring (if sometimes corrective) sense. But that makes a big difference in interpreting what's going on with those rebel kings whose bodies Jesus is about to scatter as carrion for birds (and who show up a few chapters later entering the new Jerusalem bringing their gifts as loyal worshipers!) If the "shepherding" meaning of the verb is retained, then the scene becomes an obvious application of the famous 23rd Psalm that everyone loves to quote and apply to themselves because of the hope of caring salvation in it. (Where, in that Psalm, the verb often translated into English as "follow" means something a hell of a lot stronger in Hebrew: it means to pursue to overthrow like a king running down a rebel army! But everyone correctly realizes that this is good for the object of the verb, and is something we pray should happen to us when we're sinning: God shouldn't abandon us, but should act to bring us home.)

In the judgment of the sheep and the goats in the Gospel According to Matthew, the verb at the end that is often translated merely "punishment" or "judgment", is actually an agricultural verb for brisk cleaning and restoration; which has strong topical links to other places in the scriptures where we want and expect God to apply that love to us in order to save us from our sinning. Combine that with an observation that the "goats", according to the terms of the poetic description, were not surprised at finding Christ to be the judge and were expecting to be allowed into the kingdom--and that makes a huge difference in what's really being warned about in that judgment! (Relatedly, it ends out a set of warnings from Christ about uncharitable and lazy servants of His being punished by Him in hellish imagery. The sheep, who had no idea they were even serving Christ, and therefore cannot be 'Christians' in any conventionally 'religious' manner, are welcomed into the kingdom without any problems.)

There are tons and tons of these kinds of things to be discussing, both in terms of Biblical interpretation and in regard to having a coherent theology instead of (accidentally or even on purpose) turning around and denying something we're otherwise professing to being true (like the omnipresence of God, which is very commonly denied by theists who would otherwise affirm it--but who deny it in order to affirm the hopelessness of God for at least some people.)

All these things require some technical language to discuss, though. Call it "jargon" if you must; but it isn't meaningless. And there's far far too much of the material for me to go into in a comment on a weblog.


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