What is Christianity? How can we understand it better? What don't we understand?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by ObiWan506, Jul 18, 2006.

  1. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    That's not how you come to understand someone else's beliefs. Why? Because you never come to see things from their perspective that way. Without that, you can never achieve understanding.

    If you want to understand LDS beliefs on any subject, but you don't assume (again, for purposes of the discussion) that the Book of Mormon is true (along with our other Standard Works), then you never can come to understand the beliefs. You instead get hung up on "Well, where is that in the Bible?" for everything.

    Understanding is about seeing things from another's perspective, not about proving it to be true. In order to see something from another's perspective, you can't go into the discussion with the assumption that they are wrong, and you con't go into the discussion demanding that everything be proven. That doesn't even work in areas like math or science (even theorems eventually reduce down to the basic postulates that cannot be proven, but are assumed to be true).

    I can't prove to you that the Bible is true, nor can I prove that the Book of Mormon is true, nor that any other work of scripture actually is scripture. I can't prove to you that God exists. No one can prove that to you. I have proven them to myself, in such a way that I can't deny it.

    If you want to understand my beliefs, but also want to get hung up on questions like those, then you will have to choose. Do you want me to prove the unprovable, or do you want to gain understanding? The discussion can't do both at once.

    Kimball Kinnison
  2. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    That's not how you come to understand someone else's beliefs. Why? Because you never come to see things from their perspective that way. Without that, you can never achieve understanding.

    If you want to understand LDS beliefs on any subject, but you don't assume (again, for purposes of the discussion) that the Book of Mormon is true (along with our other Standard Works), then you never can come to understand the beliefs. You instead get hung up on "Well, where is that in the Bible?" for everything.


    I respectfully disagree. This places an undue on the person doing the understanding for the benefit of the person whose beliefs you are trying to understand.

    This would be different if I have to accept that another person believes, whatever thier reason, that the work is true. But if we enter every objective discussion with the assumption that the work is true, we're immediately working in a sandbox, a subset of possibilities that favors the believer.

    Perhaps that's not the beliver's fault. Perhaps they are... I don't want to phrase this as a limitation, but perhaps unduly invested in keeping the discussion within those boundaries that they cannot leave it.

    But for the person attempting to do the understanding, remember that they can only go so far as well. There has to be a point where someone can understand the beliefs of someone who believes the book of mormon, say, without becoming a convert. Because if the only way to "understand the belief" of a mormon is to become one, then you've just devised a logical trap benefiicial to the Mormon, or believer. At that point perhaps the person trying to understand the belief can truly "understand" a mormon, but it's now become a completely exclusive process. A person who "understands" being a mormon in this respect can now not progress from here to try and "understand" the beliefs of Islam, or Judaiism, or the Catholic Church, or Hinduism. Because to imply that they can do the same there implies that they never "understood" the book of Mormon to begin with, otherwise how could they go on from there?

    Therefore, if understanding a belief system is understanding, in the third person, that a Mormon accepts only a subset of possibilities as truth because they accept the book of mormon is true, that is fine. But if understanding a belief is to actually go through the process of being a Mormon to gain thier POV, an experience that must be had in the first person, this sacrifices objectivity and locks the person trying to understand into the same possibility subset.

    Perhaps this is not what you were saying, but it was what I was starting to infer.
  3. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    All I am saying is that for purposes of the discussion, you need to set a baseline of assumptions, basically a bunch of ground rules. Let me give you another example, besides Mormonism.

    Over the years, there have been many threads on Islam here in the Senate. Usually, they don't go well, because of this exact reason. Many people refuse to approach other religions in a spirit of understanding.

    For example, when an islamic member of the boards would answer questions, referring to the Koran to support them, there are quite a few people who would respond by quoting the Bible to "disprove" those beliefs. However, in a thread on Islam, the Bible is not authoritative in any way, since they don't accept the Christian Bible as scripture. It can be useful for comparison purposes, but not for much more than that. Those people who "refute" the Koran in an Islam thread by using the Bible are dragging their own assumptions into the discussion, rather than working to understand Islam.

    If you want to understand Islam, you can't get hung up on whether the Kioran is true or not. In fact, that's completely irrelevant to understanding Islam. It is incredibly important if you are thinking of converting, though.

    In order to understand someone, you really have to walk a mile in their shoes, not walk on a nearby road in your own shoes. You need to try to see things from their
  4. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    This is the sort of thing I was warning about a week ago.

    Go ahead and treat the Bible as authoritative--Wait, WHICH Bible?! Which books are we considering canonical here? Which translations? When we say the Bible is authoritative, do we mean that we accept everything in it as literal truth as some denominations do, or do we take the generalized, interpretive stance of other denominations?

    You can really only have a 'rational' discussion about religious tenets if you confine discussion within the limits of a specific denomination.
  5. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    For the most part, when discussing generalities, the specific translation of the Bible doesn't make that much of a difference. Yes, when you dig deeper, it can cause more problems, but that would go beyond what this thread is for.

    That's also one reason why it is important to state your own assumptions upfront. For example, in an earlier post, I clearly said that if you assume the Bible to be true, then our common ancestry from Noah (who spoke directly with God) could easily explain many of the similarities in religions from around the world. I stated the assumption, and then the reasoning that follows from it.

    Even if it is difficult to have a discussion on Christianity (of all varieties) in general, it is still far easier if you actively try to avoid the "prove the Bible is true first" argument. That argument does nothing to promote understanding.

    Kimball Kinnison
  6. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Kimball, I guess we'll never agree on how to approach the discussions in this thread. The thread poses three questions - which in my eyes raises secondary questions. None of which forces me to assume that a Christian of one denomination or another is dealing with absolute correctness. I apply the same rules to me, a non-Christian who is asking questions that may not fit into a particular structure demanded by other posters here. I find it baffling that some in here assume alot and do not ask questions about the faith system that they adhere to so much.

    1) What is Christianity?

    There are two ways of approaching this imo. a) How do Christian today pratcise thier beliefs and faith or b) What is Christianity in the wider historical context. I come from the latter POV. I believe I can find out more about what Christianity is by not limiting my field of enquiry to merely what Christians believe today.

    2) How can we understand it (Christianity) better?

    For me, it is seeing through all the myths and stories that are for the most part not unique or original to Christianity. Seeking for the true message(s) and lessons, if there are any, of the founders of the original cult of Jesus. I say founders because we cannot assume that what Jesus had in mind is what the likes of Peter and Paul spread. There were definate splits in the early church.

    3) What don't we understand?

    Again, for me, what many Christians fail to understand is how little of the religion is actually original thought unique to the Jesus cult. To truly undersatnd Christianity you must ask questions about these narratives.

    I do this with an open mind. HOw can I go into any discussion seeking an understanding by disregarding ceratin elements which would happen if I assusmed one party or another was correct in all it said?

  7. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    I'm approaching this thread from the same perspect that has been used for 4 years to moderate threads on specific religions. In each of the other religion-specific threads, the presumption of validity for that religion's scriptures has been applied, for very specific reasons.

    First, there were regular problems with people (both trolls and people with good intentions) coming into threads, asking questions like "What do Mormons believe about __________", or "What do Muslims believe about ________", getting an answer supported by the Book of Mormon, Koran, or some other similar work of scripture, and then a response of "I don't accept the (Book of Mormon|Koran|whatever). Answer my question from only the Bible."

    This sort of thing inevitably led to flame wars, and would often be used as an excuse for trolling. It's one of the reasons why we've never really been able to maintain a stable thread on Islam like we have with other religions. Those same guidelines are the reason why the Mormonism and Catholicism threads are the two oldest open threads in the Senate. Neither one has ever been locked, not even for a cool down period.

    Not only that, but take a look at the first several posts of the thread, setting the tone and theme of the thread. The thread topic is not established by just the title (and however you choose to interpret it). The direction given to this thread by its author and the first several posters cleraly made it about building understanding of the doctrines and teachings of Christianity, which requires the presumption of validity for the Bible. In fact, you were the first person in the thread (after almost 100 posts) to not apply that presumption of validity.

    Kimball Kinnison
  8. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    What I would like to understand better about Christianity is this alarming bloodlust among some of the Christian right about suppporting Israel's campaign against southern Lebanon and protesting against the idea of a cease fire.

    Texas preacher leads campaign to let Israel fight

    Last week, as Israel's armed forces pounded Lebanon and worries of a wider conflagration mounted, [television evangelist John Hagee] presided over what he called a "miracle of God": a gathering of 3,500 evangelical Christians packed into a Washington hotel to cheer Israel and its current military campaign.

    For many Christians, the formula seems to boil down to this: We in America need to support Israel to the end. God told the Israelites 'I will bless those who bless you curse those who curse you.' I want to be a blessed nation.

    Hagee founded the group "Christians United for Israel." The movement considers itself based in scripture, but the so-called Christian Zionists were largely a fringe element among the Christian right as recently as the mid to late 1990s.

    What has made it so popular, aside from the fact that this formerly fringe cause is now being widely championed by the Christian right? Do Christians now understand the bible better than they did ten years ago. Are the billions being poured into bible research finally paying dividends?

    Well no. Not really.

    What has happened of course since the mid 1990s when most Christians dismissed these ideas out of hand is 9/11 and the widespread perception of Americans that Islam has become radicalizaed against them. One of the inevitable responses was probably going to be the emergence of a radical Christian extremism.

    Now I think we are seeing the birth of that. Ten years ago, it was bombing abortion clinics and shooting doctors. But the next logical step of this movement is the formation of radical Christian extremist terrorist movements to fight Islam/defend Israel.

    Before long you'll see American Christian churches funding paramilitary camps and sending radicalized youth off to the Middle East to kill Arabs. Preachers will promise them eternal salvation for setting off car bombs in Arab cities, and so on. Moderate, peace loving Christians will shake their heads in disbelief and try to convince people that Christianity is really a religion about love and tolerance, but since this kind of Christian is a dying breed anyway, the voice of moderation and peace will be drowned out by the sexiness of fighting a holy war against Islam and for Israel.
  9. The_Fireman Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2001
    star 4
    That was a good laugh, Jabba. Quite comical.

    I can't speak for all Christians, especially since I don't consider myself of that belief system (I don't accept many of the foundational doctrines and creeds of the early church). But I can say how I feel about it: Israel deserves all the land it has in its possession right now, as well as Gaza and the West Bank. It should fight to take it back at all costs. God said this.

    As for the Muslims in the region, Israel should, again, do whatever it takes it end the threat to their existence, regardless of international law.

    I don't say this because of some perceived threat to America from Islam. I don't give a flying crap about that. Don't get me wrong, I would be sad for the many deaths that might result, but I am no patriot.
  10. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Kimball,

    It sounds as if you are advocating that a thread may not evolve or move on depending on what is being discussed at any particular time by the posters.

    The title of the thread is as valid as the first few posts in defining the feel of the topic but it doesn't mean that the topic at hand cannot digress or discuss sub-topics within the wider debate. If that was the case then many many decent threads here and across the JC would not have lasted as long as they have.

    A poor argument imo.
  11. Darth Geist Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 1999
    star 5
    ...So Israelis have a license to massacre however many child refugees they want, whenever they want, because it says so in the book they wrote themselves?
  12. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    That's the side the fundamentalist Christians have chosen. Baby killing.
  13. The_Fireman Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2001
    star 4
    Look, as long as I am able to stay out of conflicts, I will. I would not like to take life, even the life of violent, scary men, much less the life of an innocent child. I don't even like to go hunting (I live in the South, just so you know). I don't even like to see insects suffer.

    My point is this: that land belongs solely to Israel. Other land around the region belongs to others, so I'm not endorsing the occupation of other nations around Israel. But as for the land they've given away, I do feel they should take it back, by force if necessary (and it would be necessary). Kill all who stand in their way, and as for those who surrender, send them out of the land to a neighboring state.

    That is the only instance, outside of protecting innocent lives, that I promote violence in.

    But Jabba, your assertions are quite absurd, even if they were slightly satirical. Christians would not go from blowing up abortion clinics to killing little kids.
  14. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Are you sure you understand what a radicalized Christian extremist movement would be capable of doing? The logical jump from words to action is not as big as you might think. Islamist extremism started as an intellectual movement before it inspired Osama bin Laden to violence. And if the American Christian right is broadly supporting baby killing in Lebanon, the next step is to do it themselves.
  15. The_Fireman Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2001
    star 4
    They don't support baby killing; they support weeding out the tares of terrorism. Unfortunately, in the process some of the good wheat gets uprooted.

    I'm sorry for the deaths of Lebonese children. But you know what? I'm sorry for the deaths of Israeli children as well, and as long as Hezbollah and all of Islam stands, the deaths of innocent children will continue. So I say go for it, beat them down. I'd prefer genocide to the continued existence of Islam, especially in the Middle East.
  16. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
    star 5
    So I say go for it, beat them down. I'd prefer genocide to the continued existence of Islam, especially in the Middle East.

    WOW [face_plain]



  17. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    DA,

    Like I said, it's not just based upon the first few posts, but also on how threads about specific religions have been handled in the Senate for the past several years. Trying to go in directions like what you want has inevitably caused problems. That's why the three or four attempts (there may have been more) to start an Islam thread have always degenerated into flame wars and been locked.

    Yes, threads can evolve, but the way you want this thread to evolve is something that the moderators of this form have actively worked against. It only causes problems in the end.

    That is a very good argument.

    Kimball Kinnison
  18. Darth Geist Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 1999
    star 5
    Hoo boy, I hope you're prepared to stand by that.
  19. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    It's not scary that The "I don't care how many babies I have to mow down to kill terrorists" Fireman believes this; it's scary that it's representative of what a broad swath of the Christian right believes. And it's now a driving force in our foreign policy.
  20. cyris8400 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 15, 2006
    star 2
    There's a few passages that suggest that God is pro-choice: Hosea 9:11-16, Numbers 31:17, Hosea 13:16, and 2 Kings 15:16.

    *shudders*
  21. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    So I say go for it, beat them down. I'd prefer genocide to the continued existence of Islam, especially in the Middle East.

    Damn you're scary Fireman. I mean...what plane of existence do you live on to have that kind of ideology?
  22. ScaPaCamem Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 10, 2003
    star 4
    Fireman that must be the most ignorant thing I have ever heard.


    YEA GUYS, HOORAY FOR GENOCIDE AND EXTREMIST VIOLENCE!!!
  23. saber_death Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2005
    star 4
    a broad swath???

    i'm pretty much a "fundamentalist" Christian by most secularist's definition of the term (as i?m sure ya?ll have noticed )... and i vote for Bush/republicans/right-wingers... and i live and go to college in the south... and spend time with alot of people with similar views as mine...

    and i've never once heard anyone say anything like what Fireman did... even as a joke.


    while many, even most, in Christian circles back Israel more so than Islam for a variety of reasons, nobody i know of in the Christian community says that Israel should take back their Biblical territory by sheer force. we certainly support their right to exist as a nation and their right to HUMANELY defend themselves from attack... but nobody who i know of has ever suggested genocide/infanticide/etc as a solution. Islamic fundamentalism (and in some cases moderates as well) want Israel off the map, and the Jews out of Palestine... Israel has no choice by to fight those sorts off, and we support that IDEA, though their execution in the current conflict leaves much to be desired both tactically and morally.

    obviously what the proper response by Israel is to terrorism/war vary as much within the Church as without (we are not some monolithic structure as some would claim), and there may be some extremists who seek warfare for it?s own sake for some unknown (and un-Biblical) reason? but please don?t assume that even 4000 people speak for the millions who believe in Christ and hold His Word as truth. anyone who advocates violence in the name of Christ automatically becomes fringe radicals, if not heretics, and if they act on such rhetoric are not supported by other Christians as seen in the fact that abortion clinic bombers were/are condemned as much as any abortionist has ever been, and these sorts will be condemned for fighting terrorism with terrorism if they ever try. the fact that this Hagee guy doesn?t even care about Jews coming to know Christ shows just how not-about Christ this is? for a Christian, non-believers coming to know Christ is huge, and is arguably the main reason we?re on this earth still? from what i read this was a political rally with the pretense of being about Christianity, not a Christian meeting about a political issue. furthermore, from everything i have ever read in the Bible, physical violence is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity:

    and for an example of a "fundamentalist" group's view on the current conflict:

    i am a young, ?fundamentalist? Christian guy, and so are most of my friends? none of us has ever been recruited by a "paramilitary camp" or asked to go "off to the Middle East to kill Arabs" by the church. in fact most of us in my age group are tired of the Church getting into politics (no matter the specific views/issues espoused)... our parent's generation spends more time blasting abortion than they do helping single moms, more time trying to ban gay marriage than getting to know people who think/live differently than them, more time complaining about the Ten Commandments being "illegal" than actually following those commandments. The people in my generation that are still committed to the Church and the faith aren?t like that (so far... i a
  24. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5


    I think things like advocating genocide, Bush planning 9/11, and slavery are ideas so stupid having them should disqualify you from all reasonable debate (and by their own logic life itself;)). You might call that a flame, but so is dooming an entire civilization to utter destruction because a some want to kill you. This world would be an awfully peaceful place if it wasn't for all the darn life forms eating each other.

    Fireman's advocation of extremist violence is just as bad or worse than Muslim violence, at least their land and lives aren't that great. As a side note, it is easy and expected of us, esspecially as Christians, to denounce him and loud as we can, and one of my biggest concerns about the Muslim world is that they often fail denounce those who use violence in their name louder than anyone else. If someone tries to hijack your values for such evil and stupid means, you should be the first and loudest opponent.
  25. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Espaldapalabras, I respect your opinion and your stance and I wish yours was a louder voice in the Christian community. What I'm saying is that there is a growing radical fringe element that wants holy war in the middle east. The problem with advocating violence is that some people will listen. And eventually some people will act.

    The same thing happened with the radicalization of the pro life movement in the 80s. Eventually, the movement produced people willing to pursue violent means of combatting abortion.

    The case for that happening here is easier to make, since the enemy doesn't have to be other Americans, although of course it might be. The rhetoric of Christian hate has been evolving since 9/11, and has reached a fever pitch with the Hezbollah-Israel conflict.