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Author Topic: Christ's Unique Divinity and Incarnation: Seeking Faith, Its Burden, and Doubts  (Read 709 times) Average Rating: 0
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rakovsky
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« on: June 19, 2014, 09:28:45 PM »

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Our Church asks us to believe in the Nicene Creed,
and Christ asks us to have faith in Him. When He healed people in the gospels, He did not specifically ask them to believe in His divinity, but rather they put their trust in Him. However, the New Testament does indicate in numerous ways that it considers Christ to be Divine, as for example, people worshiped Him. Perhaps accepting Christ's divinity is then also an important part of being saved? The world has many hardships and suffering, and I love the Church, Christ, Christianity, and its hopes. They give me hope and inspiration. I don't want to be lost in confusion and doubts about Christ's Divinity and Incarnation when faith in it is so important, there is suffering in the world, and I am faced with my eventual worldly end. One priest, rightly, said in a sermon that we should believe in the Nicene Creed if we go to communion, while another told me that in case one lacks such faith, he/she should still commune, but do so in prayer about his doubts, which I found helpful.

I believe that God exists, based on concepts of love, righteousness, right and wrong, life, kindness, and energy. It's clear to me from my research that the Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would be killed and resurrect. And I believe that Jesus existed. I think that more likely than not our souls survive death. I don't have a strong opinion about Christ's resurrection, but I don't think that the latter is seriously unlikely because sometimes people are resuscitated after being clinically dead in the hospital.

However, unfortunately I am stuck when it comes to Christ's unique Divinity as the Second Person of the Trinity and His Incarnation to the Virgin Mary.

The main reason for my doubt is that because it is so unnatural, it makes it very unlikely to have happened. Birth to a human virgin is practically nonexistent in nature. And while miracles occur, they are by definition rare and extraordinary. The other reason for my doubt is that there are so many other planets that it seems unlikely that He would have chosen ours on which to be incarnate. I admit that the concept of God becoming man is not a mundane one, but it is not such an illogical one that its rationale is a major obstacle for me.

I know of reasons in favor of Christ's incarnation
in the Virgin Mary and His unique Divinity: I accept that God can do anything, and consequently He could perform the Virgin Birth and produce Christ as His Son before all ages. People have had visions of Christ or have felt an intense presence that they associated with Christ. Unfortunately, some people have, as a general matter, been fooled by hallucinations or claim miraculous experiences in other religions. Merely because a person feels a strong moment of inspiration and extraordinary power or experiences a miracle does not mean that ideas they associate with it are true. The Turin Shroud is a mysterious document that I hope could serve to reveal more about the mystery of Christ, especially if it was created in a miraculous way. However I am skeptical about it, because a contested Radiocarbon test dates it to the 14th century and I imagine it could be the image of someone brutalized from that time, like by an Inquisition.

It's also true that the early Christians underwent severe persecution for their beliefs and their community outlasted the persecution and went on to grow, which leans strongly in favor of the religion being correct. Yet I could imagine that Christianity's ideas could have served a strong spiritual need in a way more powerful than death, even without those ideas being factually correct. There were numerous cults and sects in the Mediterranean at that time, and there were gnostic gospels that our Church frequently - if not generally - considers invented.

It's also true that the Bible indicates that its writers consider Christ to be divine. I believe that Zech. 12 indicates that the Messiah would be divine, and Genesis makes an enticing prediction about the seed of a woman. I don't think that a seed, by itself, is necessarily male or female, since a seed could be fertilized. Yet by emphasizing that it is the seed of a woman, it implies that this is a special seed connected with a woman. Psalm 22 and Isaiah can also be used to argue for a divinely miraculous birth. The New Testament (eg. Luke) is explicit about Christ's birth from a virgin, and Saint Paul also talks about Jesus being born of a woman (Gal. 4:4). Plus, things like Christ's acceptance of worship, along with His Resurrection and numerous healings attest to His divinity. However, I am unfortunately skeptical about whether the events in the Gospels happened the way that they are recorded. I understand the outline of the theological argument for God's incarnation, death, and resurrection, and communion with His believers as a necessity for the world's salvation and deliverance from death, but I am not sure whether this was the only path necessary to achieve their salvation.

Looking over these facts,
Christ's incarnation and unique divinity are a mystery to me. It would be an extraordinary miracle, and yet Christians have experienced miracles. Granted, other religions claim them too. If I had to guess, it would be that the two things did not happen, based on how extraordinary they would be. But this is a weak guess, and I don't exclude their occurence. I don't have enough basis to reject the Creed or the Church.

I would prefer to have faith, and even better to have a strong one. But I worry that I don't have the time or energy to study about this in the way that I convincingly studied the Old Testament prophecies of His resurrection. I am left in a situation of weakness that is unpleasant for me. It's not how I want things to end up, but nor do I want to force or effectively hypnotize myself into believing something incorrect. People recommend that I pray and continue to go to church, and read Orthodox literature, which I can do on occasion. I am fortunate that our Church tolerates our doubts in our search for faith, but it is still hard for me.

Thank you also for listening. I am glad that I can share this with you.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2014, 09:37:12 PM by rakovsky » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2014, 10:03:22 PM »

Indeed. "But with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

As far as I can tell, if we don't know anything beyond our own realm, and we believe in a higher power, we have to give Christianity and it's claims a chance.

I don't see the use in worrying about things we cannot prove. Unless Atheism is what you are going for, we just have to accept that there are things that we cannot know.
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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2014, 03:56:09 PM »

I don't see the use in worrying about things we cannot prove. Unless Atheism is what you are going for, we just have to accept that there are things that we cannot know.

I agree. The big leap has always seemed to me to be accepting that there is a God - an omniscient Being who created everything and yet wants to be in relationship with me and heal me.

If you accept that, why worry about details? If there is a God, and I believe that there is, then He can presumably do anything He wants.
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« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2014, 11:50:39 PM »

I don't have a strong opinion about Christ's resurrection, but I don't think that the latter is seriously unlikely because sometimes people are resuscitated after being clinically dead in the hospital.
Interesting; my own take is the very opposite. Christ's resurrection I have found myself able to believe; that Christ was resuscitated I regard as something utterly impossible to believe.

A resuscitation view of Christ's resurrection was defended by Heinrich Paulus and Friedrich Schleirmacher at the beginning of the 19th century, that Jesus survived the crucifixion, however, has been generally abandoned by almost all NT scholars since D. F. Strauss, himself no friend of conservative Christianity, offered this criticism:

“It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening, and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given the disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of life, an impression that would lay at the bottom of their future ministry.” –D. F. Strauss David Strauss, The Life of Jesus (1879), vol 1, p. 412.

The professionalism of the Roman soldiers in carrying out execution also must be considered. The mention by John, an eyewitness of the crucifixion, of blood and water flowing from Jesus' body after he was pierced by the soldiers has often been noted to have a ring of truth about it. Medically the "water" could have been either serum from the pericardium mixed with blood from the heart, or hemorrhagic fluid in the pleural cavity. It is further known to have been standard practice of the Romans to lance persons who were crucified to ensure that they were in fact dead (Quintillian, Declamationes maiores 6.9). The Romans were anything but stupid or careless executioners. In the case of the crucifixion victim spared on behalf of Josephus in the documentary, we should keep in mind that all present attempted to save him. The suggestion in the documentary this event supports the survival of a crucifixion victim where no such attempt was made is ludicrous.

There is also a clear failure to truly consider the extent of Jesus' injuries (e.g. the Roman bone and rock-tipped flagrum which Jesus was whipped with often resulted in death in and of itself; cf. also Jesus' collapse from physical exhaustion while carrying the cross). Jesus was also buried in customary Jewish fashion, being bound and wrapped in linen with almost 75 pounds of spices. The involvement of Jesus' family and followers in the movement which from its inception was marked by a willingness to die for the claim that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead is also really quite inexplicable on the premise that he barely escaped death.

William L. Craig, who did a doctoral dissertation on the resurrection at the University of Munich under Wolfhardt Pannenberg (a liberal German theologian who came to believe and defend the literal resurrection of Christ, albeit he demurs on other points we Orthodox accept) also emphasizes how a resuscitation view is utterly incapable of accounting for the worship of Jesus in earliest Christianity:

"Even if Jesus had survived, His appearing to the disciples half-dead and desperately in need of medical attention would not have evoked their Worship of Him as Lord. The conviction of the earliest disciples was that Jesus rose gloriously and triumphantly from the grave, not as one who had managed to barely escape death…" This point is particularly interesting insofar as historical critical scholarship has overwhelmingly adopted the conclusion that the worship of Jesus began very early in primitive Christianity, with the earliest expressions appearing no later than within the first year or two after the crucifixion. This allows very little time for conceptual evolution and impresses upon us –however we assess it- the mysterious nature of the sudden appearance –more of an explosion- of worship of a man brutally executed as a Messianic pretender as the Lord of life.

For such and similar reasons though I find I can believe Christ is risen I could never believe a resuscitated Christ is at the bottom of Christian origins.

unfortunately I am stuck when it comes to Christ's unique Divinity as the Second Person of the Trinity and His Incarnation to the Virgin Mary. The main reason for my doubt is that because it is so unnatural, it makes it very unlikely to have happened. Birth to a human virgin is practically nonexistent in nature.
Though I personally believe in Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, and the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary without reservation I do think you have a point: it is surely problematic to believe e.g. that the Virgin birth is *a natural event*. On the other hand neither scripture nor the Church have ever asked us to believe e.g. the Virgin Birth was a natural/normal event.

"'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God'" (Lk 1:34-35)

Not:

"'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, 'No, no, it is a perfectly normal and natural process. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of Natural Processes.'"

You seem to presume that only events which unfold according to natural processes are worthy of belief(?). Again I can certainly join you in regarding a virgin birth of Jesus which occurred via normal unaided natural processes to be problematic to say the least. This hardly seems to be what the scripture or the Church have in view though, wouldn't you agree?

Interestingly Tertullian's credo quia absurdum (Latin: "I believe because it is absurd") seems to have regarded the absurdity of our Creed as a witness to its truth. I do not think we know for sure what Tertullian meant, but I find something on the order of "if one was simply making up a believable story, who on earth would make up a story like this?!" God takes on human flesh and is born in a stable indeed! And is crucified by sinful mortals?! Whatever Tertullian actually meant,[1] it seems to me he is a witness to the truth that whatever our Creed affirms it is not reducible to the order of mere run of the mill every day normal natural events.


while miracles occur, they are by definition rare and extraordinary.
Here I suspect I'm not quite following your outlook; if you allow that miracles *do* occur, as rare and extraordinary, it seems you would also allow at least in theory that the Virgin Birth is not impossible even if it is not a natural normal event if miracles *do* (or even can) occur. Am I misreading you?

The other reason for my doubt is that there are so many other planets that it seems unlikely that He would have chosen ours on which to be incarnate. I admit that the concept of God becoming man is not a mundane one, but it is not such an illogical one that its rationale is a major obstacle for me.
Such a notion might as easily lead one fellow to entertain the possibility of something along the lines of the Chronicles of Narnia as another to deny the incarnation. Clearly, though, if God *did* take upon Himself the garb of any sort of flesh it would by definition occur within the contingent finite particular world (or perhaps on a "Narnian" view, worlds), by necessity at some particular time in some particular place. Such formed part of the scandal of the Gospel for the Greeks in the ancient world.

I know of reasons in favor of Christ's incarnation [/u]in the Virgin Mary and His unique Divinity: I accept that God can do anything, and consequently He could perform the Virgin Birth and produce Christ as His Son before all ages.
Again apologies for misreading you as requiring some sort of naturalism; clearly this is not actually the case for you.

People have had visions of Christ or have felt an intense presence that they associated with Christ. Unfortunately, some people have, as a general matter, been fooled by hallucinations or claim miraculous experiences in other religions.
This is quite true. On the other hand -though some thoughtful secular academics might take a different view of it, it seems to me that hallucination is not an especially credible view of the origin of Christian belief.

Princeton scholar Bruce Metzger pointed out that, whatever we make of the resurrection, the fact that a significant number of people believed with utter sincerity that they had seen and spoken with the risen Jesus after his death is historically undeniable (cf. Metzger, The New Testament: It’s Background, Growth, and Content, 2003). They persisted in this affirmation in the face of great personal danger from the very beginning. The message of the earliest witnesses was not merely that they "believed something" (ala Kierkegaard) but that they had seen Him alive after His death (Acts 4:1-22). Even Jungian archetypical ingression cannot explain mass hallucination.

The Turin Shroud is a mysterious document that I hope could serve to reveal more about the mystery of Christ, especially if it was created in a miraculous way. However I am skeptical about it, because a contested Radiocarbon test dates it to the 14th century and I imagine it could be the image of someone brutalized from that time, like by an Inquisition.
The status of this test is currently precisely reversed on three counts:

(1) In 2005 the same scientist who performed the original C14 dating retracted his 1988 position that the shroud was a medieval forgery in a peer reviewed scientific journal -he discovered the fabric he tested was a patch later sewed onto the garment to repair it. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4210369.stm

(2) Subsequent research has actually dated the actual Shroud material (not the patch) to the first century. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/28/shroud-of-turin-real-jesus_n_2971850.html

See also my article http://katachriston.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/new-3-d-image-of-jesus/ for a comparison of recent 3D computer imaging from the Shroud in comparison with early iconography, coinage, and traditions despite my need to update the article according to the new discoveries connected with (2).



However intriguing I fall short of regarding such things as "proof" -I tend to think more in terms of "pointers" because of the biblical and patristic understanding of God's hidenness -not only sin can and does obscure our perception of God (and therefore communion with God, which is salvation -why repentance, confession, Eucharist, etc. are so important) but scripture even suggests God obscures Himself at times and seasons from those who know Him for good purposes. But (this is my only point) neither are many such pointers that easy to dispose. Popular apologetics, natural theology, natural law, though, are not my personal cup of tea and their failure where they are deemed dogmatic necessities can as easily be a pointer to atheism as to belief (this I think true historically as well as philosophically).

It's also true that the early Christians underwent severe persecution for their beliefs and their community outlasted the persecution and went on to grow, which leans strongly in favor of the religion being correct. Yet I could imagine that Christianity's ideas could have served a strong spiritual need in a way more powerful than death, even without those ideas being factually correct.
All this is true, however, as said previously, the message of the earliest witnesses was not merely that they "believed something" (ala Kierkegaard) but that they had seen something (Acts 4:1-22). The NT witnesses to multiple appearances of Jesus during a period of over forty days to many witnesses who soon would sustain their faith under severe pressure and persecution ; the "population explosion" of new followers of Jesus proceeded faster --by far-- than it did before the crucifixion. It is historically unprecedented that a large number of people in any culture began zealously following an individual immediately upon the occasion of their death. Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to prove something here, it just seems to me that an approach to Christian origins which reduces the whole thing to creative construction of an idea to serve spiritual needs is inadequate.

Take the example of St. James. Jesus' own brother James, who did not believe in Jesus when he was alive (Jn 7:1-10; cf. also Mk. 6:4; Mt. 13:57, etc.), believed after the crucifixion (due to having seen Him risen according to 1 Cor 15:7, universally recognized as a pre-Pauline tradition received earlier by Paul, datable via Paul’s firsthand testimony in Galatians to within between six months to a few years at most of the crucifixion; it is historically well established that Jesus’ brother James became leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 21:18; cf. Gal 1:9; 2:11-21; Acts 15:13); his martyrdom over 30 years later as well as his leadership of the Christians in Jerusalem is well attested historically (cf. Josephus, Ant. xx, 197-203; Josephus was 25 years old and living in Jerusalem at the time, i.e. it was for him a local news story). I am not aware of any adequate explanation for James' conversion if the testimony recorded in 1 Cor 15:7 is rejected. It would be very difficult for us to presume all this is the result of his concluding convincing others that his brother was risen from the dead was a great way to advance their (and/or St. James' own) spiritual needs. Something else was going on.

It's also true that the Bible indicates that its writers consider Christ to be divine. I believe that Zech. 12 indicates that the Messiah would be divine, and Genesis makes an enticing prediction about the seed of a woman. I don't think that a seed, by itself, is necessarily male or female, since a seed could be fertilized. Yet by emphasizing that it is the seed of a woman, it implies that this is a special seed connected with a woman. Psalm 22 and Isaiah can also be used to argue for a divinely miraculous birth. The New Testament (eg. Luke) is explicit about Christ's birth from a virgin, and Saint Paul also talks about Jesus being born of a woman (Gal. 4:4). Plus, things like Christ's acceptance of worship, along with His Resurrection and numerous healings attest to His divinity. However, I am unfortunately skeptical about whether the events in the Gospels happened the way that they are recorded.
On the face of it I can sympathize with this position though it is not identical to my own. On the other hand the skeletal outline of the kerygma from which the Gospels grew thrived within a community among which members of the family of Jesus were prominent part. A complex discussion there too much for a short post -not entirely clear-cut in terms of development, and filled with controversy, but something to ponder from various sides.

I understand the outline of the theological argument for God's incarnation, death, and resurrection, and communion with His believers as a necessity for the world's salvation and deliverance from death, but I am not sure whether this was the only path necessary to achieve their salvation.
Arguments via e.g. philosophical theology which proceed along the lines of logical necessity are important to some trajectories of Christianity (esp. Roman Catholicism); for my part I deem them worth their approximate weight in a cup of spit, so we might assess the significance of the failure of the same in slightly different light. More important in my view than what can be argued as a necessity, or what can be "proven" by discursive rationality, philology and exegesis, historical criticism et al is what is true. What is truth is not for me an epistemological question for academics as a mystical one which is never perceived by discursive rationality alone but known or not in correlation to things like love.

"All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." -Matt 11:27

"All true Orthodox theology is mystical; just as mysticism divorced from theology becomes subjective and heretical, so theology, when it is not mystical, degenerates into an arid scholasticism, 'academic' in the bad sense of the word. Doctrine cannot be understood unless it is prayed: a theologian, said Evagrius, is one who knows how to pray, and he who prays in spirit and in truth is by the very act a theologian. And doctrine, if it is to be prayed must also be lived; theology without action, as St. Maximus put it, is the theology of demons. The Creed belongs only to those who live it. Faith and love, theology and life, are inseparable. In the Byzantine Liturgy, the Creed is introduced by the words, 'Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essence and undivided.' This exactly expresses the Orthodox attitude to Tradition. If we do not love one another, we cannot love God; and if we do not love God, we cannot make a true confession of faith and cannot enter into the inner spirit of Tradition, for there is no other way of knowing God than to love Him" (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church, p. 207).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our Church asks us to believe in the Nicene Creed and Christ asks us to have faith in Him. When He healed people in the gospels, He did not specifically ask them to believe in His divinity, but rather they put their trust in Him. However, the New Testament does indicate in numerous ways that it considers Christ to be Divine, as for example, people worshiped Him. Perhaps accepting Christ's divinity is then also an important part of being saved?
The answer one gives, I think, depends upon what one conceives fullness of salvation to be. It was because of their view of what salvation was that the early fathers considered the issues of Trinity and Incarnation of such pivotal importance that the first six great Ecumentical Councils revolved around them specifically. According to the early fathers salvation is union with God (theosis), in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, whereby humans are "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4).

As Vladimir Lossky explains it the great dogmatic battles were considered first of all to be safeguarding this central aspect of Christian spirituality. If Christ is not truly God per Arius our partaking of the divine nature in Christ is impossible. Ala Nestorius there was a middle wall of partition whereby in the person of Christ Himself God remains separate from man. Contra the Apollinarians and Monophysites, since the fullness of human nature was assumed by the Word, it is our whole humanity that is to partake of the divine nature. If salvation comes to us through the Holy Trinity, the incarnation, life, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Logos who revealed the Father, and only by the work of the Holy Spirit upon the human heart, salvation is itself Trinitarian. The issue was important according to the fathers because what aspect of Trinitarian theology is deemed impossible ipso facto would make humanity's union with God ontologically impossible as well, and the seeking of that union in its true fullness problematic. As Lossky affirms, "The main preoccupation, the issue at stake, in the questions that successively arise respecting the Holy Spirit, grace and the Church herself -this last great dogmatic question of our time- is always the possibility, manner, or the means of our union with God. All the history of Christian dogma unfolds itself about this mystical centre, guarded by different weapons against its many and diverse assailants in the course of successive ages" (Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church).

I would prefer to have faith, and even better to have a strong one. But I worry that I don't have the time or energy to study about this in the way that I convincingly studied the Old Testament prophecies of His resurrection. I am left in a situation of weakness that is unpleasant for me. It's not how I want things to end up, but nor do I want to force or effectively hypnotize myself into believing something incorrect.
Indeed indeed! Auto-hypnotism is no substitute for faith. I do not think faith is a matter of superior study though (though it can be consonant or correlative to such things) but it is the gift of God, BUT -and this is important too- no more a gift in its season than God's hidenness by design in his loving care and for his purposes. "God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart." -2 Chron 32:32 Alone, though, we are never alone, but in God's mercies.

People recommend that I pray and continue to go to church, and read Orthodox literature, which I can do on occasion. I am fortunate that our Church tolerates our doubts in our search for faith, but it is still hard for me.

Thank you also for listening. I am glad that I can share this with you.
I think this is good advice; I'm sure I'm not alone here in believing charism is found in things like material items that can be touched, as scripture also has, and not just in books and internet forums (if indeed it lurks in the latter realm in meaningful quantity). Also, I should say that I can relate to your current trials on a personal level in that, though over different issues than many you have expressed, I have passed through some difficult periods of my own in times past. I hope you continue also to pray often to continue a lifestyle of repentance and love, to search -though at times this might seem futile it will likely ever continue, and especially search to find the heart of God in whatever manner remains in your capacity; this, I believe, is Orthodox even if not perhaps the fullness of Orthodoxy; do not feel alone; none of our journeys are yet complete -may you find many to stand by your side on the way.

I'm not on the forum much of late, but happened upon your post; forgive me if I'm rambling too long or off point. Best Regards, D
« Last Edit: June 21, 2014, 12:23:57 AM by xariskai » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2014, 01:14:54 PM »

Indeed. "But with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

As far as I can tell, if we don't know anything beyond our own realm, and we believe in a higher power, we have to give Christianity and it's claims a chance.

I don't see the use in worrying about things we cannot prove. Unless Atheism is what you are going for, we just have to accept that there are things that we cannot know.
Dear Orthodox 4 Christ,

You are right that with God, all things are possible, and I agree with giving Christianity and its claims a chance. I would love to have an opinion about whether Christ rose and was incarnated by the virgin and is the second person of the Trinity. Perhaps there is no use worrying about this. I am not going for Atheism, and in fact I am strongly attracted to Christianity. I studied the prophecies in great detail because I believed that they were the easiest things to get a handle on in the Nicene Creed, in contrast to the virgin birth. But my worry that is that I don't have the combination of time and will to continue with the rest of those studies.
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« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2014, 01:23:17 PM »

The big leap has always seemed to me to be accepting that there is a God - an omniscient Being who created everything and yet wants to be in relationship with me and heal me.

If you accept that, why worry about details? If there is a God, and I believe that there is, then He can presumably do anything He wants.
Katherine,

Accepting that there is a God is a serious leap, I agree. However, this is something I am able to accept as likely because of righteousness, life, love, and energy. Since those things exist, naturally His force knows everything. But perhaps he doesn't literally know things with a physical mind. And yet, being the highest force everywhere present, perhaps an implication is that he knows all things too.

But whether Christ in particular was God in a unique way that no other person is, and is the Pantocrator is a further stretch, which becomes less likely. This claim is that not only that there is a God, but also that He is Christ, and not only that, but He in particular was born by a virgin and rose.

While God's existence is something that one can perceive or make an educated guess about through the concepts I mentioned, the claims about a physical virgin birth are harder to deal with from a critical thinking perspective.

However, I do appreciate you writing back Katherine and helping me to think about this.
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« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2014, 01:39:21 PM »

Dear xariskai,

Thanks for writing back on your thoughts. One of the ways that CS Lewis addressed the question was by proposing a challenge: "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?" There is a fourth possibility: that the writers did not write down what happened realistically.

Still, even if we go through the difficulties of rejecting all proposed natural explanations, it may not be convincing due to the normal unlikelihood of a virgin birth. For example, while all our reasoning faculties may fail to explain how a magician cuts a woman in half on stage and then walks between the two halves and then reunites her alive and healthy, we still expect, and believe that he has not performed actual magic. We may simply fail to understand how what we are observing could happen, and yet we have a strong belief that it is not real magic. We know from experience that magicians have used illusions in the past, and we have found out how they have performed many of those tricks.

Unlike a magician, the apostles claimed to be speaking with honesty about real events, combined it with moral teachings, and they underwent persecution. And yet a person who understands the laws of nature may still expect that those miraculous events were not real, even if he is unable to explain why other factors were present (like multiple people claiming to have see Christ risen). I don't have the same attitude as a strong skeptic, though and would prefer to know what happened in reality.
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« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2014, 01:54:42 PM »

Dear Xariskai,

I am skeptical about whether:
Quote
“It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening, and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given the disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of life, an impression that would lay at the bottom of their future ministry.” –D. F. Strauss
He asked His mother not to touch Him after His resurrection, which could be seen as still in pain. He had Thomas touch His wounds, which suggests He still had serious wounds. The mere fact that anyone could survive the crucifixion to survive even another week could be very impressive to the apostles, especially when He still bore its marks.

The Romans were skilled executioners like you said next, however I could imagine them secretly saving or avoiding fully killing Jesus: Pilate sympathized with Him. However I admit that this would normally be very unlikely. But Jesus had some positive relations with Roman soldiers and Joseph of Arimathea must have had a favorable relationship with Pilate for him to have been granted Jesus' body when the bodies were normally put in mass graves as I understand it.

Quote
The involvement of Jesus' family and followers in the movement which from its inception was marked by a willingness to die for the claim that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead is also really quite inexplicable on the premise that he barely escaped death.
They were flogged for their open professions, but it seems that when they began preaching, to be killed for them was unusual. James the apostle was not killed until 60-70 AD.

Regarding the Angel's appearance to mary, I wonder if the angel was a literal angel that looked like a person, or whether it was a sign that Mary interpreted to be talking about her birth.

Quote
Again I can certainly join you in regarding a virgin birth of Jesus which occurred via normal unaided natural processes to be problematic to say the least. This hardly seems to be what the scripture or the Church have in view though, wouldn't you agree?
Virgin births occur in nature among smaller forms of animals. The process with Mary would not be unaided, because it was helped forward by God. Yet nonetheless, Mary was a natural person and Jesus was fully man, and thus a process of birth in a physical womb would have had to have happened.

Further, while we understand that the Bible's view is that a virgin birth occurred by God's will as you said, rather than by nature alone, it is still a question for me whether that all happened
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« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2014, 04:17:54 PM »

Dear Xariskai,

It is nice to write with you about this. Thank you.

You write:
Quote
You seem to presume that only events which unfold according to natural processes are worthy of belief(?).
I have heard of medical cases, including cancer, which cleared up after prayer. I believe that they occur and thus I don't exclude things just because nature's laws make them very unlikely. The virgin birth is a similar case.

"I believe because it is absurd" might mean that we call it "belief" because it is not something that is established as a "known", absolutely proven, rock hard fact.

Quote
Here I suspect I'm not quite following your outlook; if you allow that miracles *do* occur, as rare and extraordinary, it seems you would also allow at least in theory that the Virgin Birth is not impossible even if it is not a natural normal event if miracles *do* (or even can) occur. Am I misreading you?
That's right. I don't believe that it is 100.00% impossible in our universe for there to be a virgin birth. But I do believe that normally the chance is extremely low, or "next to impossible."

Quote
Princeton scholar Bruce Metzger pointed out that, whatever we make of the resurrection, the fact that a significant number of people believed with utter sincerity that they had seen and spoken with the risen Jesus after his death is historically undeniable... Even Jungian archetypical ingression cannot explain mass hallucination. 
First, how many people is "significant"? St. Paul claimed to have talked with Jesus- but his two experiences - on the road to Damascus and in the Temple while praying are not quite the physical person to person situation that one normally thinks of as "talked with someone".
The main ones that stretch credibility are where 70 people see Him at once before the Ascension, then when He goes through walls to meet the apostles, and finally when He eats with them by the ocean. This suggests to me that perhaps the visions were not real. I don't deny that people see ghosts, by the way, either. I tend to think that they are real ghosts but admit that they could be hallucinations or other spirits. And then again, what to think about the supposed Marian apparitions that many people see? Some people claim that it was a bad spirit too, while others present claimed that they saw nothing or just the sun (or a light?). Perhaps the human mind is more unfortunately "malleable" about reality than we realize?

Thanks also for sharing the information about the shroud, xari. What about the French bishop's letters from the 14th century, when the shroud was first being produced, saying that he knew who painted it and that it was definitely a forgery and that thus it was not allowed to be presented to the public as the real biblical shroud? It's true that it was not a painted shroud, but this may be suggesting that he knew who created it. One suggestion I heard is that it was an image of a Knight templar who was killed by the Inquisition.

Quote
but scripture even suggests God obscures Himself at times and seasons from those who know Him for good purposes.
Maybe. This is a pretty, but cathartic thought.

Quote
The NT witnesses to multiple appearances of Jesus during a period of over forty days to many witnesses who soon would sustain their faith under severe pressure and persecution
Perhaps their persecution of those witnesses was not so suddenly severe? It was only in 60-70 AD that St James was killed. They were, on the other hand, living "underground" in a way and St Stephen's stoning reflects that there was repression.

Quote
It is historically unprecedented that a large number of people in any culture began zealously following an individual immediately upon the occasion of their death.
John Brown became more powerful in a way after his death. There have been celebrities who became more famous after their deaths. I suppose the Buddha is more famous now than after his death. I agree though that this is a remarkable fact nonetheless.

Perhaps James did believe in Jesus at some later point in Jesus' mission work before His death? Also, what about the idea that the gospel claims could have been exaggerated?

Quote
-and this is important too- no more a gift in its season than God's hidenness by design in his loving care and for his purposes. "God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart." -2 Chron 32:32 Alone, though, we are never alone, but in God's mercies.
That's pretty.

Thanks again.


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« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2014, 04:20:52 PM »

PS. It looks like you know alot about the Turin shroud. So it was carried around different places in hiding until around 300 AD it was given to royalty in Edessa, where it was hidden in a wall and then discovered 200 years later by accident and then people knew what it was, based on a brick picture of a face? This is also an unlikely sounding story for where it was through those years, isn't it?
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« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2014, 05:46:26 PM »

faith is an option.. if the bible is true , the things of the bible are important to believe.. what one has to discover it's 'if' and 'why'
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« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2014, 07:21:18 PM »

...

Thank you also for listening. I am glad that I can share this with you.

I don't remember tuning into this station.
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« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2014, 07:41:06 PM »

We take for granted that what we "believe" is due to the operation of our rational powers, when in truth our rational powers are so often set upon a course by the other levels of our being, particularly our incensive powers. It is not inherently more fitting to think upon an accidental universe populated with alien species yet with a local earth upon which all must go always as we see it than to think upon a most-high God from whom all flows and according to whose counsels all goes. In the end, our rational powers are limited by their tendency to curl inward and feed upon themselves -- by their enforced asymptotism to universal truth -- and it is only noesis that can pierce such a tangle of shadows and allow illumination in.
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« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2014, 09:59:25 AM »

See, here's the thing: I'm at the age now where I can look back and see that I was dead wrong about almost everything. I told my mother that I was issuing a blanket retraction for everything I said between the ages of 15 and 22 or thereabouts. So I don't particularly lean upon my own understanding - having had demonstrable proof that there's a better than average chance I'm wrong.

But the combined witness, beliefs, teaching of historic Christianity and the Church are remarkably consistent in the things that they tell me about Christ - things that have been taught and preached for a couple of millenia, give or take.

What are the odds that I'm right and they're wrong?
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« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2014, 12:34:42 PM »

faith is an option.. if the bible is true , the things of the bible are important to believe.
Hello, Dan.
The Bible's story is extremely appealing and interesting. But unfortunately many things in it sound like fantasy, which make them seem very unlikely. I would prefer for them to be real, because I want the world to be saved from its current state, and the Bible is a story about this.

I don't rule out the appearance of angels, but the virgin birth simply seems so rare that it is a mystery to me whether it happened, unfortunately.
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« Reply #15 on: June 24, 2014, 01:18:55 PM »


I don't rule out the appearance of angels, but the virgin birth simply seems so rare that it is a mystery to me whether it happened, unfortunately.

Pretty good working definition of a miracle, wouldn't you say? Something rare and a mystery.
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« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2014, 01:20:23 PM »

faith is an option.. if the bible is true , the things of the bible are important to believe.
Hello, Dan.
The Bible's story is extremely appealing and interesting. But unfortunately many things in it sound like fantasy, which make them seem very unlikely. I would prefer for them to be real, because I want the world to be saved from its current state, and the Bible is a story about this.

I don't rule out the appearance of angels, but the virgin birth simply seems so rare that it is a mystery to me whether it happened, unfortunately.

There's no shortage of people born through sexual intercourse whom you could worship instead of Christ.  Personally, I suggest this guy.
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« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2014, 01:31:30 PM »

We take for granted that what we "believe" is due to the operation of our rational powers, when in truth our rational powers are so often set upon a course by the other levels of our being, particularly our incensive powers. It is not inherently more fitting to think upon an accidental universe populated with alien species yet with a local earth upon which all must go always as we see it than to think upon a most-high God from whom all flows and according to whose counsels all goes. In the end, our rational powers are limited by their tendency to curl inward and feed upon themselves -- by their enforced asymptotism to universal truth -- and it is only noesis that can pierce such a tangle of shadows and allow illumination in.
Dear Porter,

Thank you for writing. Sure, our rational powers are often set on a course by our incentives and motivations (our "incensive powers?") And I understand that one can have an inner sense of the divine, which you call one's noetic powers.

And yet I have a critically thinking mind. Let me give you an example of how it works for me. Janice Coy along with her boyfriend or husband, from the southern Appalachians appeared on a TV show and said that she had extensive experiences with a bigfoot family near her home. She sounded sincere about it on TV, but the story she told was so fantastic- about them talking with her, having names, and about them hunting and eating deer, that it sounded like she was delusional. She claimed that she took a hair off of one of them. I don't rule out that bigfoot exists or that people see them, but this story sounded very unlikely.

Quote
The background to the videotape was that the Coy/Carter family claimed they have been in communication with a Bigfoot family for over five decades. Many in the Sasquatch studies community feel the very nature of this claim brings discredit to the entire science of hominology http://cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/contact2

Unlike the story of bigfoot, Christ's story is much more appealing and has a key moral element. And yet nonetheless, as a critically thinking person, I naturally question extraordinary, miraculous claims, knowing that just because I want something inspiring to be true and very inspired people believe it is does not mean that it is so.

Unlike a general belief in God's existence, which can be sensed through the noetic, it is hard for me to have an overriding noetic sense of a specific factual event in the past, like the resurrection and virgin birth. Were I a clairvoyant, I could use such powers to "see" it, but I am not and don't have a very strong trust in clairvoyants either, although I tend to think that they can have limited abilities.
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« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2014, 01:48:45 PM »


I don't rule out the appearance of angels, but the virgin birth simply seems so rare that it is a mystery to me whether it happened, unfortunately.
Pretty good working definition of a miracle, wouldn't you say? Something rare and a mystery.
Those are major elements of miracles. Miraculous healings are rare, but common enough that I think that they occur.
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« Reply #19 on: June 24, 2014, 02:48:07 PM »

You call the critical analysis natural, and I won't address that argument, but it is also natural to man to suppose there is more to the world than the everyday, to discern meaning behind the everyday. Moderns blithely cut themselves off from most of man, past and present, when they elide this observable fact. And indeed I think we begin to see they cut themselves off from themselves.

What is it you want, Rakovsky?
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« Reply #20 on: June 24, 2014, 02:52:54 PM »

What is it you want, Rakovsky?

I suggest this guy.
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« Reply #21 on: June 24, 2014, 06:37:52 PM »

But the combined witness, beliefs, teaching of historic Christianity and the Church are remarkably consistent in the things that they tell me about Christ - things that have been taught and preached for a couple of millenia, give or take.
I agree. I don't consider the question of whether there were one or two angels at the tomb to be a problem.
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« Reply #22 on: June 24, 2014, 06:41:22 PM »

You call the critical analysis natural, and I won't address that argument, but it is also natural to man to suppose there is more to the world than the everyday, to discern meaning behind the everyday. Moderns blithely cut themselves off from most of man, past and present, when they elide this observable fact. And indeed I think we begin to see they cut themselves off from themselves.
I agree with you about this, Porter.
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« Reply #23 on: June 25, 2014, 12:14:47 PM »

Thought of this thread when I read this.

"...That experience made me think about the handcuffs the secular mindset places on the objective search for knowledge.
According to the meme, religious believers reject science if it conflicts with their faith. But science also has its prejudices.
…Rather than being open to all possibilities—with potentially uncomfortable ideological implications—Goldstein fled from grappling with a mystical experience that might undermine her worldview. How is that fundamentally different from religionists rejecting a scientific hypothesis out of hand because it would materially challenge their faith?"
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/01/the-holy-water-flowers
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« Reply #24 on: June 25, 2014, 01:57:51 PM »

Thought of this thread when I read this.

"...That experience made me think about the handcuffs the secular mindset places on the objective search for knowledge.
According to the meme, religious believers reject science if it conflicts with their faith. But science also has its prejudices.
…Rather than being open to all possibilities—with potentially uncomfortable ideological implications—Goldstein fled from grappling with a mystical experience that might undermine her worldview. How is that fundamentally different from religionists rejecting a scientific hypothesis out of hand because it would materially challenge their faith?"
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/01/the-holy-water-flowers

Thanks for sharing this, Katherine.

Quote
Once, in fact, I had a very strange experience where I seemed to be getting information from a dead person. I racked my brain trying to figure out how this could be happening. I did come up with an explanation for how I could reason this away.
It would be interesting to hear more about this experience. I think that this probably happens to some people, because those experiences have been frequently reported. But without knowing much more, it is hard for me to say what happened. The other miracles it mentions are interesting too, like the flowers surviving longer in Holy Water.

The virgin birth and Jesus being God - in particular the second person of the Trinity, are appealing ideas that I don't reject either. But unfortunately, they are far more extraordinary than the flowers' survival.

We have stories from 2000 years ago about a virgin birth, seemingly reflected in visions or poetry from previous centuries, (like Isaiah's prediction that a maid will conceive as a sign to Ahaz, or Psalm 22 where God "births" an Israelite king). Then we have stories by the followers of an Israelite teacher that he had a virgin birth (something probably only Mary would know for certain), resurrected, and acted as if to tell people that He was God. Since then many people have reported miracles like healing and visions, which may not be unknown in other religions like Islam or east Asian religions. Does this mean that there really was a virgin birth and incarnation?

For me, it is a mystery. Normally, a virgin birth is next to impossible. I don't rule out that God can intervene that way, like with the flowers. But I am the kind of person who thinks that Adam and Eve themselves were myths and that there likely was not a literal Noah's Ark. It is unpleasant to think that God would allow religious, inspiring visions that were misleading, but Asian religions also have them. It's unpleasant to consider that the virgin birth, incarnation, and anecdotes about Jesus appearing after His death and eating, etc. are exaggerations written out by a small group who knew the real story and were subsequently persecuted for it.

It's not what I prefer, but unfortunately it doesn't seem so unrealistic. But even in that case, I would still love and admire them for their moral teachings.
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« Reply #25 on: June 25, 2014, 02:14:20 PM »

Thought of this thread when I read this.

"...That experience made me think about the handcuffs the secular mindset places on the objective search for knowledge.
According to the meme, religious believers reject science if it conflicts with their faith. But science also has its prejudices.
…Rather than being open to all possibilities—with potentially uncomfortable ideological implications—Goldstein fled from grappling with a mystical experience that might undermine her worldview. How is that fundamentally different from religionists rejecting a scientific hypothesis out of hand because it would materially challenge their faith?"
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/01/the-holy-water-flowers

Thanks for sharing this, Katherine.

Quote
Once, in fact, I had a very strange experience where I seemed to be getting information from a dead person. I racked my brain trying to figure out how this could be happening. I did come up with an explanation for how I could reason this away.
It would be interesting to hear more about this experience. I think that this probably happens to some people, because those experiences have been frequently reported. But without knowing much more, it is hard for me to say what happened. The other miracles it mentions are interesting too, like the flowers surviving longer in Holy Water.

The virgin birth and Jesus being God - in particular the second person of the Trinity, are appealing ideas that I don't reject either. But unfortunately, they are far more extraordinary than the flowers' survival.

We have stories from 2000 years ago about a virgin birth, seemingly reflected in visions or poetry from previous centuries, (like Isaiah's prediction that a maid will conceive as a sign to Ahaz, or Psalm 22 where God "births" an Israelite king). Then we have stories by the followers of an Israelite teacher that he had a virgin birth (something probably only Mary would know for certain), resurrected, and acted as if to tell people that He was God. Since then many people have reported miracles like healing and visions, which may not be unknown in other religions like Islam or east Asian religions. Does this mean that there really was a virgin birth and incarnation?

For me, it is a mystery. Normally, a virgin birth is next to impossible. I don't rule out that God can intervene that way, like with the flowers. But I am the kind of person who thinks that Adam and Eve themselves were myths and that there likely was not a literal Noah's Ark. It is unpleasant to think that God would allow religious, inspiring visions that were misleading, but Asian religions also have them. It's unpleasant to consider that the virgin birth, incarnation, and anecdotes about Jesus appearing after His death and eating, etc. are exaggerations written out by a small group who knew the real story and were subsequently persecuted for it.

It's not what I prefer, but unfortunately it doesn't seem so unrealistic. But even in that case, I would still love and admire them for their moral teachings.

ISTM, the point of the article was that people pick and choose what they believe in. You do, we all do, but the picking and choosing is not as rational and "scientific" as you seem to believe. Our choice is based at least in part on our culture, history, environment, education, personality - a myriad of different things.

You discard the virgin birth and incarnation as too unlikely, but are willing to accept other miracles, like angels or healings.

ISTM, again, that we either have to take the stand that there are no miracles at all, from a materialistic pov or accept that there are miracles (which would include the virgin birth and the incarnation.)

Otherwise it's just kind of a personal choice, like preferring steak over chicken.
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« Reply #26 on: June 25, 2014, 03:23:37 PM »

ISTM, the point of the article was that people pick and choose what they believe in. You do, we all do, but the picking and choosing is not as rational and "scientific" as you seem to believe. Our choice is based at least in part on our culture, history, environment, education, personality - a myriad of different things.

You discard the virgin birth and incarnation as too unlikely, but are willing to accept other miracles, like angels or healings.

ISTM, again, that we either have to take the stand that there are no miracles at all, from a materialistic pov or accept that there are miracles (which would include the virgin birth and the incarnation.)

Otherwise it's just kind of a personal choice, like preferring steak over chicken.
Hello, Katherine,
Thanks again for writing!
I think personal preferences and choices play a major role in people's thinking. But it should not be the only factor. I would like to think that if I go to buy a lottery ticket today I will win, but unfortunately I don't believe that it is very likely.

I find Christianity's moral system more appealing than other religions', and since the world can be a scary, sad place, Jesus' story of triumph over death is very appealing to me.

I don't discard the virgin birth and incarnation, but unfortunately at this point it is a mystery to me whether they occurred, because Christians sometimes report visions and miracles, but on the other hand it would be an extremely unusual event. I think that healings are often real due to the many reports of them, and for a similar reason I think that it's likely that there are angels, especially if that includes beings from other dimensions.

If there are other planets with life, then it becomes less likely that the incarnation would happen on any specific planet. We are trusting that Mary, Peter, and the evangelists were correct in their telling of the extraordinary events that they were privy to. Some of the most extraordinary events, like the Virgin birth, Transfiguration, and meeting with the angels at the empty tomb involved a small number of people. According to Acts the Ascension was witnessed by 70 people, and I am not saying that it's unlikely, but we are relying heavily on the authority and truthfulness of Acts that it happened. I think that one has to put a high amount of trust in the apostles and evangelists in order to believe it. But doubting is difficult in an emotional sense, because I would greatly prefer for their inspiring story to be true.

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« Reply #27 on: June 25, 2014, 03:53:58 PM »

Self-inventory is the beginning of kosmos-inventory. Honesty is the soil for truth.
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« Reply #28 on: June 25, 2014, 04:50:51 PM »

Honesty is the soil for truth.

May it grow!
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« Reply #29 on: June 25, 2014, 04:52:02 PM »

So what's your criteria for believing/not believing various miracles? What evidence will you accept to consider a miracle "genuine"?

You believe in angels, because...?

You believe in miraculous healings because...?

You don't believe in the testimony of the Apostles or the New Testament and the teachings of the Church for centuries because...?

"It just seems so unlikely"?
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« Reply #30 on: June 25, 2014, 04:53:29 PM »

Oh, and I hope the above doesn't sound snarky or combative, because I didn't mean it that way. I always like to think things through.
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« Reply #31 on: June 25, 2014, 04:58:56 PM »

Oh, and I hope the above doesn't sound snarky or combative, because I didn't mean it that way. I always like to think things through.
No, and thanks for saying and for writing to me about it.
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« Reply #32 on: June 25, 2014, 05:20:28 PM »

So what's your criteria for believing/not believing various miracles? What evidence will you accept to consider a miracle "genuine"?
The criteria is to look at the available information both in favor and against its occurrence, as when one decides whether other facts are correct or not. It need not be direct, testable information.

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You believe in angels, because...?
Many people have reported seeing or experiencing them over the centuries. It makes sense that just as we are beings in our dimension or layer of reality, that there can be beings on other layers and that the layers may cross over. I don't rule out that it's a psychological phenomenon. Hallucinations can happen. But sometimes the stories have involved interactions at the physical level, suggesting more than a hallucination. So it seems to me more likely that angels exist.
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You believe in miraculous healings because...?
I have heard of many healings. Plus, it's something that can be shown: the person had a severe illness and then it cleared up, and the before and after states can be shown. The healings can be very unlikely and contradict our expectations based on our knowledge of biology. This does not rule out that there was a natural explanation, but that some outside force acted on nature.

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You don't believe in the testimony of the Apostles or the New Testament and the teachings of the Church for centuries because...?
"It just seems so unlikely"?
I don't reject them either. But unlike the healings and modern medicine, I don't know how to show the before and after states at this point. We must rely on the gospels, early Christians' acceptance of it, modern visions, etc.

Many people have claimed direct experience with angels, but only one person would have had conscious, direct experience with the virgin conception, making it harder to decide about. Many people have claimed direct experience with Christ-God, while followers of other religions claim experience with their religious figures- although I have much more affinity with Christ, and don't believe in other deities.
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« Reply #33 on: June 25, 2014, 08:56:52 PM »

Rakovsky, you need to speak to your priest about all this. ASAP. ISTM you're making excuses for not believing certain fundamental teachings, and your "justifications" don't even hold water.
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« Reply #34 on: June 25, 2014, 10:33:14 PM »

I think it is the most basic & sublime process of the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, & ascension by the Lord which He fulfills by His 2 wills & natures in which God has met us on our own level of suffering that is a gift of love we do not want to doubt. The tragedy that defines much of human life are the challenges that, most understandably, lead us to despair & sometimes, to evil. Yet, at a subconscious level, God has given us the 2 great commands & the golden rule to make our collective existence at least possible. I honestly believe by free will, a Christian struggles to conform to these by faith & a non Christian guided by their conscience.
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« Reply #35 on: June 26, 2014, 08:06:50 AM »

Rakovsky, you need to speak to your priest about all this. ASAP. ISTM you're making excuses for not believing certain fundamental teachings, and your "justifications" don't even hold water.

I'm afraid I have to agree. You appear to be cherry-picking on the basis of personal preference.
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« Reply #36 on: June 26, 2014, 09:38:34 AM »

I think it is important to distinguish between struggling with faith and cherry picking on personal preference.  I am not qualified to make the determination in Rakovsky's perspective, but I know for my own part, I have looked at Scripture in the past and just struggled with incredulity that such things can actually be true. It is difficult when your faith says one thing, but logic says another. This is why Scripture cautions us against leaning on our own understanding, but of course, it is much eacher to say than to actually practice.

The Gospel of Matthew tells us what many of the people of the day believed about Christ's resurrection; they believed that the disciples stole the body (despite the fact that there was an armed guard stationed to prevent that from happening). Virgin birth and resurrection do seem very far fetched based on our understanding of life, but our understanding of life is not very helpful when it comes to God coming incarnate into the world.  We simply don't have any prior or following experience with such a thing, so it isn't something that we can make a determination on based on our experience or knowledge of the natural world. 

If we were try to look for a similar example in the natural world, I suppose the closest thing we could come to is the theory of general relativity.  On first description, the theory sounds utterly absurd, how can time be affected by applying energy and momentum? Until Einstein published it, such a concept would have been mocked as fiction. Even after it was published, it was mocked and doubted.  Einstein himself even added what he called the "cosmological constant" to help the theory match what he perceived to be reality. Absurdity, however, is a function of our mental perception, not reality. Virgin births, resurrections and general relativity might seem absurd, but it is because our mental perception and its inability to comprehend it in light of what we have experienced.

In regards to virgin birth specifically, in order for it not to occur, you would have to say that the Theotokos was untruthful and St. Joseph was untruthful. You would also have to explain how God could have come into the world exclusively from the seed of a man and woman.
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« Reply #37 on: June 27, 2014, 06:24:01 PM »

LBK,
Your advice is good. I discussed some of my doubts with a few priests and will continue to do so. They recommended doing things like praying about it, talking with other Orthodox Christians about it, talking with other clergy about it, praying about it while I go to Communion, reading the Bible and the Church fathers. Writing on OC.net about it is one of things I decided to do as a result.
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« Reply #38 on: June 27, 2014, 06:30:57 PM »

The tragedy that defines much of human life are the challenges that, most understandably, lead us to despair & sometimes, to evil. Yet, at a subconscious level, God has given us the 2 great commands & the golden rule to make our collective existence at least possible. I honestly believe by free will, a Christian struggles to conform to these by faith & a non Christian guided by their conscience.
That is nice how you put it, and true.

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I think it is the most basic & sublime process of the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, & ascension by the Lord which He fulfills by His 2 wills & natures in which God has met us on our own level of suffering that is a gift of love we do not want to doubt
That is true- many people do not want to doubt about it, because we are on a level of suffering, and God meeting us on that level out of love is not something that, when we hear, we wish to reject.

And yet simply because something sounds extremely attractive, unfortunately, does not mean that it is true, which is why when I think whether or not it happened I have uncertainty about it. It does not mean that I don't love God or Christ, or find the story extremely appealing, all of which i do.

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« Reply #39 on: July 05, 2014, 05:59:33 PM »

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