Christianity Matthew & Paul Malaspina Great Books
Outline • Introduction – Christianity • The World According to Russell • Faith as Epistemology • Christ as Radical • Jesus the Man • The Historicity of Christ • The Christian Synthesis • Meaning • Jesus, Socrates and Buddha
Introduction • Fusion of Greek philosophy & Hebrew tradition • Christianity as a Religion and a Philosophy • Role of Paul in this fusion • The role of Reason • Influence on Western Culture
The World According to Russell • Observations of an Intellectual Alien • Authority vs. Philosophy • The Five Authorities & the Five Religions: Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed (The Paradigmatics) • The Five Religious Masks (neo-religions) • The Five Philosophies
Faith as Epistemology • (F)aith vs. (f)aith • I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the clever and revealing them to mere children. (Matt. 11:25) • The reason I speak to you in parables is that they [those with no faith] look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. (Matt. 13:14) • I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world. (Matt. 13:35)
Authenticity of Faith So far then we have seen that, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. But that is not all we can boast about; we can boast about our sufferings. (Romans 5:1-5)
The Promise of Faith That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, [with faith] I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. (Matt 13:35) [without faith] … Listen but do not hear, see but do not perceive … (Matt. 13:15)
Perspective of a non-believer I feel his brotherly hand which grasps mine, so that I can follow him ... it is not the hand of the messiah, this hand marked with scars. It is certainly not divine, but a human hand in the lines of which is engraved the most profound suffering ... the faith of Jesus unites us, but faith in Jesus divides us … Schlom Ben-Chorin
The Radical Nature of Christ’s Demands • The ethical requirements Jesus demands for entering this kingdom of his are uncompromising - and really impossible - without faith • Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that use you. (Matt. 5:43-48)
Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-11) How happy are the poor in spirit;theirs is the kingdom of heaven, Happy the gentle, they shall have the earth for their heritage. Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied. Happy the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them. Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God. Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. Happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:8) Our father in heaven,may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven, Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one. Glorified and hallowed be his great name in the world, which he created according to his will. (Ancient Yiddish Prayer)
The essential idea of Jesus – the gift of Freedom Faith produces freedom through transcendence This independence from the world while immersed squarely in the world is the source of Jesus' strangeness in the face of hostility and persecution: his utter serenity. Hans Kung This absolute faith enables Jesus -- like Socrates before him -- to question everything in the world. This serenity faith brings means that nothing worldly has importance - death, suffering, persecution, and abuse – all are totally meaningless. That is freedom!
Hegel on the Radical Message of Christ Never have words so revolutionary been spoken, for everything otherwise looked on as valid is represented [now] as indifferent [and] unworthy of consideration. Hegel
Lucian of Samosata These poor souls (the Christians) have persuaded themselves that they are immortal and will live forever. As a result, they think nothing of death … most of them are perfectly willing to sacrifice themselves. Besides, their first law-giver (he is referring to Paul here) has convinced them that once they stop believing in Greek gods, and start worshipping that crucified sage of theirs, and living according to his laws, they are all each other's brothers and sisters. So, taking this information on trust (meaning faith), without any guarantee of its truth, they think nothing else matters, and believe in common ownership -- which means that any unscrupulous adventurer who comes along can soon make a fortune out of them, for these silly creatures (the Christians) are very easily taken in! (Lucian c. 140 AD)
Historical Jesus He (the governor) assembled the Sanhedren of judges and brought before them the brother of Jesus, him called Christ, whose name was James, and some others. And when he had formed an accusation against them as breaks of the law, he delivered them to be stoned. Josephus – Jewish Historian
The Jesus of Q • Not a Messiah • Not born of a virgin • Did not perform miracles • Did not die on the cross • No resurrection
Elements Pointing to Authenticity • The flight after Jesus arrest • Peter’s denial • Christ's inability to work miracles in Galilee • Christ’s early uncertainty as to his mission • Christ’s confessions of ignorance about the future • Christ’s moments of bitterness • The cry on the cross: ‘My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?’ • Discovery of the two Marys
Christian Synthesis • Egypt: divine trinity, Last Judgment, adoration of mother and child, mystic theosophy • Phyrigia: Great Mother worship • Syria: the resurrection drama of Adonis • Thrace: cult of Dionysus, the dying and saving god • Persia: Mithraic rituals that closely resemble the eucharistic sacrifice of the mass.
Mithras • The god Mithras was actually incarnated into the human form of the Saviour expected by Zarathustra or Zoroaster • Mithras was born of Anahita, an immaculate virgin mother • Mithra ascended into heaven • Mithra remained celibate throughout his life, and valued self-control, renunciation and resistance to sensuality among his worshippers • Mithra was referred to as: "the Light of the World” • Mithra was was a mediator between heaven and earth and was a member of a Holy Trinity • Worshippers held strong beliefs in a celestial heaven and an infernal hell and believed that the benevolent powers of the god would sympathize with their suffering and grant them the final justice of immortality and eternal salvation in the world to come • They looked forward to a final day of judgment in which the dead would resurrect • They believed in a final conflict that would destroy the existing order of all things to bring about the triumph of light over darkness • Believers took part in a ceremony in which they drank wine and ate bread to symbolize the body and blood of the god • Sundays were held sacred, and the birth of the god was celebrated annually on December the 25th • Mithras took part in a Last Supper with his companions before ascending to heaven, to forever protect the faithful from above • Mithraic system had no “Paul” – offered no arguments – developed no philosophy – the Mithraic cult remained a cult
Karl Jaspers on Jesus Because Jesus stands at the end and margin of the world, in an exceptional situation, he reveals the possibility and hope implicit in all those who are despised according to the standards of the world, the lowly, the sick, the deformed; ... Both his actions and his words seem contradictory by the standards of reason: on the one hand, struggle, hardness, the ruthless alternative; on the other infinite mildness, non-resistence, compassion. He is the challenging warrior and the silent sufferer....The authenticity of Jesus' suffering is historically unique. The pain and terror are not accepted with resignation or borne with patience; they are not veiled; "My God, My God why has thou forsaken me?" Jesus insists on the reality of suffering and expresses it. When, forlorn and forsaken he is nearly dead with suffering, the minimum of ground he has to stand on becomes all and everything, the Godhead. Silent, invisible, unimaginable, it is after all the sole reality. The utter realism with which the uncloaked horrors of this existence are portrayed implies that help can only come from the utterly intangible. (Karl Jaspers, Socrates Jesus Confucius Jesus)
Hans Kung on Christ Looking to the crucified and living Christ, even in the world of today, we are able not only to act but also to suffer, not only to live but also to die. And even when pure reason breaks down, even in pointless misery and sin, we perceive meaning, because we know that because here too in both positive and negative experience we are sustained. Faith in Jesus the Christ gives peace with God and with self, but does not play down the problems of the world. It makes us truly and radically human -- open to the very end for the other person, the one who needs us here and now -- our neighbour. (Hans Kung On Being a Christian)
Jesus vs. Buddha Jesus' message is part of a history wrought by God. Those who go with Jesus are caught up in a passion that has its source in the moment of the most critical decision. Buddha proclaimed his doctrine in aimless wanderings, in aristocratic serenity, without insistence, indifferent to a world that is forever the same. Jesus builds on the Old Testament, Buddha on Hindu philosophy. Jesus demands faith, Buddha demands insight.
Jesus vs. Socrates Jesus teaches by proclaiming glad tidings, Socrates by compelling us to think. Jesus demands faith, Socrates an exchange of thought. Jesus speaks with direct earnestness, Socrates indirectly, even by irony. Jesus knows of the kingdom of heaven and eternal life, Socrates has no definite knowledge of these matters and leaves the question open. But neither will let us rest. Jesus proclaims the only way; Socrates leaves man free, but keeps reminding us of our responsibility rooted in freedom. Both raise supreme claims. Jesus confers salvation. Socrates provokes us to search for it.