Saturday, 6 July 2013

Truth claims and Christianity - Jerram Barrs

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In this very interesting and useful video, Jerram Barrs makes the excellent point that Christian evangelists must be very clear and careful to make the point that people need to believe Christianity because it is true, not because of the beneficial psychological or social effects it may have.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NMGCLapxd0

Jerram Barrs has probably the most entrancing voice since the late Bob Ross - so just listening to him speak is extremely pleasant!

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8 comments:

  1. Well, if you "believe" something for any other reason than that you think it's true, that's not really believing, is it? It's just pretending to believe.

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  2. Barrs is drawing the contrast with modern mainstream secular culture - where believing is a psychological phenomenon - not a truth claim. Because the claim there that there is one reality is regarded as intolerant.

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  3. I think, secularly speaking, it's more the claim that a given -- small -- group of people has the definite knowledge of reality that's considered intolerant. (And since no one can really know reality, beyond the things obvious to 'everyone', we're all justified in making things up about it....)

    I don't know. It still feels strange that there are several religions that make exclusive claims to be the only , and all other creeds being various degrees of perniciously false. These claims are made on practically equivalent basis of evidence (assuming (primacy of a particular source of revelation over other sources), (religion X is the only true religion)). The only way I can see past this dilemma is to apply spiritual discernment (probably divinely inspired), which is something whose existence the secular worldview doesn't believe in.

    The equivalence of the fundamental basis for privileging one source of revelation over another is something that's a huge problem for me. There are very few cases where some source of authority is clearly subordinate to another. For instance, if you believe that Christianity consists in the organized institution of the Church, Catholicism is the closest thing. If you believe it consists in the Church as embodied in continuity of Tradition (which any given earthly institution is capable of betraying), then Orthodoxy is the proper approach. If you believe it consists in the Word of God as written down in the Bible (and that the human intellect is capable of apprehending this Word correctly, possibly aided by personal, private revelation), then some other Protestant church (or even no organized church) is correct.

    My conclusion -- and the point at which I definitely depart from the secular viewpoint -- is the fact that I can't definitively discern between, say, Catholicism vs. Orthodoxy vs. Protestantism vs. exclusivist non-Christian religions vs. inclusivist phrasings of Christianity, is more likely a sign that there's a flaw in how I perceive and understand these things, than a sign that all of these people are wrong about reality.

    The only rule of thumb I have so far is that if the fruits of some given philosophy or religion are evil, it is definitely incorrect.

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  4. To present my earlier problems in a less rambling fashion:

    The logical and sane position is that there is an objective Truth, Beauty, Virtue in reality, that Christianity is a valid insight into it (as seen from the fruits of those who profess it, and those who fall away from it into secularism, and also - once one gains an appreciation for such things - in its ability to produce Saints).

    The problem, then, is the existence of different denominations of the Church in a state of mutual schism, many of which seem to be valid from the criterion of fruits, but who mutually denounce each other as false or invalid, sometimes as a matter of dogma (depending on the severity of what it means to be 'false').

    Then the temptation is to insist that there is no answer, falling into subjectivism, and thence into inability to behave morally; or to linger between denominations (in what CS Lewis calls the 'front hall'); or to take a leap of faith (whether random, or aided by some supernatural faculty of discernment, or just in loyalty to a specific group of people who happen to belong to a given faith) into a specific denomination.

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  5. @A - The schisms within real Christianity are probably evidence of the running-down of the world. But since they are here to stay, we can make the best use of the situation by regarding them as providing options to develop particular spiritual potentials.

    Christianity is in essence very simple, too simple to be a viable way of life - so there must be elaboration of the core faith into a complex, coherent, self-sustaining psycho-social system - and (according to systems theory) the primary operation of a system is to distinguish system from environment - system from not-system.

    This is perhaps the basis of exclusivism which seems inevitable but untrue (i.e. not a Christian explanation, but a natural law akin to natural selection) - if some kind of primary system non-system operation is eliminated from each denomination within the Church, the system will not be sustainable.

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  6. Arakawa, the problem with judging religions by their fruits is that most religions have brought forth both good and evil fruits. Catholicism is one of the clearest examples of this: one could see it as either unspeakably evil or sublimely good, depending on which events in its long history one chooses to focus on. Despite what Jesus said, we do seem to find grapes and thorns, figs and thistles, growing on the same plants.

    Another problem is that of deciding when an individual's actions, good or bad, should be attributed to his creed and when they should not. Were Torquemada, Stalin, and bin Laden simply evil individuals who betrayed the high ideals of their respective religions and whose actions do not reflect real Christianity or Communism or Islam? Or did their actions reveal the true nature of those religions?

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  7. Wm Jas COMMENTS...

    "Arakawa, the problem with judging religions by their fruits is that most religions have brought forth both good and evil fruits. Catholicism is one of the clearest examples of this: one could see it as either unspeakably evil or sublimely good, depending on which events in its long history one chooses to focus on. Despite what Jesus said, we do seem to find grapes and thorns, figs and thistles, growing on the same plants.

    "Another problem is that of deciding when an individual's actions, good or bad, should be attributed to his creed and when they should not. Were Torquemada, Stalin... simply evil individuals who betrayed the high ideals of their respective religions and whose actions do not reflect real Christianity or Communism or Islam? Or did their actions reveal the true nature of those religions?"

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  8. @WmJas - " the problem with judging religions by their fruits is that most religions have brought forth both good and evil fruits. "

    But this is a problem (that outcomes are not uncontroversially interpretable) that applies to all examples of learning from experience, including science - it is not distinctive to religion.

    But nonetheless your point is valid - I would have supposed that it was as obvious as anything ever can be in a complex world that communism is a fraud, a failure and evil - yet millions of elite intellectuals in the West don't see it. Clearly, consensus is not going to happen.

    But much of this is due to the phenomenon I described yesterday - multiple rotating micro-comparisons which avoid a head to head overall evaluation. Others are due to dishonesty, others to actual evil.

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