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The Resurrection and early Christian faith


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#41 tenpenny

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:39 PM


As to Ryan's question about Borg, Crossan and the creeds. They are part of churches that use the creeds each week. I suspect they affirm the creeds, but that may not be the same thing as giving mental assent to what is in the creeds. I come from a non-creedal tradition, but when I worship at a Episcopalian or Catholic church, I feel no qualm reciting the creed, but that doesn't mean that I give mental assent to everything. To say "I believe" should never be confused with mental assent.

:blink:

Um, wow. I thought I had heard it all.

Yes. This notion that one can affirm the creed without giving mental assent strikes me as complete nonsense.


I'm coming almost a year late to this discussion, I realize, but Darrel's remarks brought to mind something that the anthropologist Roy A. Rappaport (1926-1997) once wrote. It took me a bit to find it again, but I did. Rappaport, for those not familiar with his work, was one of foremost authorities in his field on ritual. I have and highly recommend two books of his - Ecology, Meaning, and Religion and Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. In the latter work, in chapter 4, in a section titled "Acceptance, belief, and conformity," Rappaport writes:


First, acceptance is not belief. The concept of belief is difficult to define and the occurrence of belief difficult to establish (see R. Needham 1972). Let us say that the term "belief" at least suggests a mental state concerning, or arising out of, the relationship between the cognitive processes of individuals and representations presented to them as possible candidates for the status of true. As such, "belief" is a second-order process, that is, one concerned with the relationship between a first-order process and external reality. By this account, belief is an inward state, knowable subjectively if at all, and it would be entirely unwarranted either for us or for participants or witnesses to assume that participation in a ritual would necessary indicate such a state.

Acceptance, in contrast, is not a private state, but a public act, visible both to witnesses and to performers themselves. People may accept because they believe, but acceptance not only is not itself belief; it doesn't even imply belief. Ritual performance often possesses perlocutionary force, and the private processes of individuals may often be persuaded by their ritual participation to come into conformity with their public acts, but this is not always the case. Belief is a cogent reason, but far from the only reason, for acceptance. Conversely, belief can provide grounds for refusals to accept. Reformers and heretics, for the very reason that they deeply believe in certain postulates concerning the divine, may refuse to participate in the rituals of religious institutions they take to have fallen into error or corruption. ...

This is not to say that the private processes may not be important in the dynamics of ritual. In a later chapter we shall take up belief and religious experience. It is simply to recognize that the private states of others are in their nature unknowable and even one's own attitudes may not always be easy to ascertain, for we are inclined to be ambivalent about matters of importance, like the conventions to which we are subordinate, and private states are likely to be volatile. "Common belief" cannot in itself provide a sufficiently firm ground upon which to establish public orders, even in very simple societies. We cannot know if a belief is common, for one thing, and whereas belief is vexed by ambivalence and clouded by ambiguity acceptance is not. Liturgical orders are public, and participation in them constitutes a public acceptance of a public order, regardless of the private state of belief. Acceptance is not only public but clear. One either participates in a liturgy or one does not; the choice is binary and as such it is formally free of ambiguity. While ritual participation may not transform the private state of the performer from one of "disbelief" to "belief," our argument is that in it the ambiguity, ambivalence and volatility of the private processes are subordinated to a simple and unambiguous public act, sensible both to the performers themselves and to witnesses as well. Liturgical performance is, thus, a fundamental social act, for the acceptance intrinsic to it forms a basis for public orders which unknowable and volatile belief or conviction cannot.


As much as I like and respect Rappaport, I think there are certain aspects of religion that didn't fully resonate with him personally (and I believe he even admitted as much, somewhere). Try as he would to not let it - the good objective scholar and all that - I think this fact affected his work to some degree. But despite that, and looking past the "anthro" mindset and terminology, I think there is something valid in what he says above. I don't know, of course, whether Darrel was thinking in precisely these terms or not, but he could have been.

Also, on the topic of the creeds, my blog post of earlier today, "Rethinking the First Article of the Creed," may be of interest.

Edited by tenpenny, 18 April 2011 - 10:51 AM.


#42 Tyler

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 09:43 AM

A researcher thinks the Last Supper was on a Wednesday.

#43 SDG

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 10:04 AM

A researcher thinks the Last Supper was on a Wednesday.

It seems to me I've researched Humphrey's theories in the past and found them unconvincing. Going on my hazy memories, I'm not sure anyone has ever really shown that there were actually two calendars that might have been used at the time. I'm open to being convinced, though. It's certainly true that the Gospels record a lot of events to try to stuff into Thursday night to Friday morning, although obviously haste may have been warranted.

#44 Darrel Manson

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 10:08 AM

I've also read some who have tried to set Palm Sunday a week earlier to leave enough time for all to take place. I'm also not convinced, and to a large extent don't care. At this point, the tradition is more important than the facts. Myth matters more than historicity. But then, that's how I can celebrate Easter anyway, isn't it.

#45 SDG

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 11:25 AM

At this point, the tradition is more important than the facts. Myth matters more than historicity. But then, that's how I can celebrate Easter anyway, isn't it.

Words can't express how bleak and melancholy this sounds to me. Recently you Facebooked a haiku about "good news." A story isn't news. I love stories, but they aren't news. As far as I can see, for you, there isn't any news.

#46 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 12:22 PM

Tyler wrote:
: A researcher thinks the Last Supper was on a Wednesday.

Or, "a western Christian thinks the eastern Christians got this one right." :)

The Orthodox are supposed to fast every Wednesday and Friday as a way of marking the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ, just as we meet every Sunday as a way of marking the Resurrection. If the betrayal of Jesus took place on a Wednesday, then I guess it would follow that the Last Supper took place on a Wednesday, as well.

Incidentally, one other way in which the eastern churches tend to follow John's gospel rather than the synoptics (with regard to the question of whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal) is that we use leavened bread for communion rather than the unleavened Passover-like bread that western churches use.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 18 April 2011 - 03:14 PM.


#47 Darrel Manson

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 02:19 PM

At this point, the tradition is more important than the facts. Myth matters more than historicity. But then, that's how I can celebrate Easter anyway, isn't it.

Words can't express how bleak and melancholy this sounds to me. Recently you Facebooked a haiku about "good news." A story isn't news. I love stories, but they aren't news. As far as I can see, for you, there isn't any news.

Bleak? No! News must have narrative - theology too for that matter. It is why we have the stories we do have. Whether we view them as historical or not, they are the way we can speak of the one whom death could not defeat - the one who is with us always. To be sure, there is much more to the living presence than that, but that in itself is a great deal to celebrate.

#48 SDG

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 02:30 PM

Bleak? No! News must have narrative - theology too for that matter. It is why we have the stories we do have. Whether we view them as historical or not, they are the way we can speak of the one whom death could not defeat - the one who is with us always. To be sure, there is much more to the living presence than that, but that in itself is a great deal to celebrate.

If God is with us always, that's certainly a great deal to celebrate. But is it news? Has anything happened? Has our situation been altered in some way, or is it only our thinking that's changed?