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Author Topic: Religion Matters: Take 3  (Read 42913 times)
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Baron von Bone
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« on: Aug 11, 2015, 06:01AM »

Here's the deal.
 
It seems to work much better to have a catch-all topic when you don't want every few posts to be a separate one (clutter), so we've been just going with a generic Religion topic for a good while. The problem is contention, and it's probably a better idea for this class of topics (umbrella topic/megatopic) to break it up into smaller categories. We've started doing that with Christian Matters and ideally any other sub-categories that warrant their own topic will be added as we go, but there also needs to be a topic that's wide open for criticism and discussion about religious matters that doesn't favor any particular form or region or whatever. So this more broad/general/inclusive topic is gonna be that--don't go there (or No be there. -- Mr. Miyagi) if you're not interested in this sort of thing. By all means create a topic that suits your own tastes or goals or whatever--that's kinda what this place is all about and how it's supposed to work ... eh? Seems to me that PP is the best place for this topic, but we'll see. The last iteration that survived for very long was moved there, so if TPTB here decide they agree it can easily be moved there.
 
So ... let's give this another shot.
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 11, 2015, 06:18AM »

I like Tim's suggestion of going through the Christian Bible one chapter at a time - one person of arbitrary religious position reads and summarises the chapter, maybe there are some comments, then the next person steps in. Like a relay book club with religious overtones.

Do we have enough interested people to keep it going for a worthwhile length of time?
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 11, 2015, 06:25AM »

I like Tim's suggestion of going through the Christian Bible one chapter at a time - one person of arbitrary religious position reads and summarises the chapter, maybe there are some comments, then the next person steps in. Like a relay book club with religious overtones.
 
Do we have enough interested people to keep it going for a worthwhile length of time?

I kinda doubt it, but that does sound interesting--seems a project like that would warrant its own topic though. I think it would get lost if it were just going on amidst a bunch of other kinda random discussions. I don't see it being a heavy traffic kinda thing, but that's all highly speculative because if it works it will develop whatever character the participants decide to bring into it.
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« Reply #3 on: Aug 11, 2015, 06:44AM »

I like Tim's suggestion of going through the Christian Bible one chapter at a time - one person of arbitrary religious position reads and summarises the chapter, maybe there are some comments, then the next person steps in. Like a relay book club with religious overtones.

Do we have enough interested people to keep it going for a worthwhile length of time?

I think that this wouldn't work because it would require too much discipline. People jumping in and making comments etc,

Unless, you're suggesting that one person takes chapter one, and does a complete discourse of it in one posting, then wait a week or so for everyone to discuss it, then the next person does chapter two and posts it in one post. Is that what you're talking about?
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« Reply #4 on: Aug 11, 2015, 06:51AM »

That was what Tim said had been done before (quote from "Christian Matters" thread):
There was a long running thread called Read Da Book.  It was started by one of the resident outspoken atheists whose premise was that most of the Christians on the forum had never read the Bible themselves.  So we started at Genesis and each of us took one chapter, paraphrased it as reverently or irreverently as he pleased, asked a set of study questions, and then the group discussed.  We made it much of the way through the OT (lots of surprises - you would be amazed at the number of times somebody gets killed in one chapter, then again in the next, and is alive later to father some children.)  Some of the theologic points were interesting and in hindsight I wish I'd copied it.  We had a mix of fundagelic Christians, liberal Christians, atheists, and pagans. 

Would you enjoy being a part of that? I think I would. But you'd need a critical mass of people to keep it going.
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Dave Taylor

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« Reply #5 on: Aug 11, 2015, 07:11AM »

From my perspective, that type of thread would require huge amounts of time and effort that I simply cannot commit.  I find the OT to be especially demanding in light of the complexity of Hebrew.  Doing something like this half-____ed does not do it justice. It has the potential for interesting discussion but get concerned person beliefs overtake historical facts and truths. 

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« Reply #6 on: Aug 11, 2015, 07:14AM »

On the contrary, although I can understand why it wouldn't appeal to a professional religious person such as yourself, I think doing it half-arsed would result in the non-Christian and non-professionally religious crowd gaining a lot of valuable insights. The low-hanging fruit is still yet to be plucked for many - and I'd certainly include myself in that - although I read about half of this book many years ago, a refresher would definitely not go amiss. I didn't read deep study as being the intention of what Tim talked about - rather the bringing to attention of the narrative.

Perhaps the fact that we are talking about doing it rather than doing it says something significant though...

Perhaps when we finish the Bible, we can start on the Koran... Or maybe we should cover that first?
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Dave Taylor

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« Reply #7 on: Aug 11, 2015, 07:28AM »

From my perspective, that type of thread would require huge amounts of time and effort that I simply cannot commit.  I find the OT to be especially demanding in light of the complexity of Hebrew.  Doing something like this half-____ed does not do it justice. It has the potential for interesting discussion but get concerned person beliefs overtake historical facts and truths.

That's kinda my inclination as well, but there's also nothing at all wrong with doing it more casually. We have a small cadre of pro/degreed theologians (i.e. you and JtTheo) who would be invaluable in making whatever commentary you have time to make. Even that model's gonna take a lot of time for those who do a chapter write-up.
 
But I'd think a treatment that suits whoever's doing it that's then critiqued is a good potential learning experience for all involved--especially regarding the fact we can all get ourselves into erroneous thinking patterns and we all need to be quite prepared and ready to modify our thinking and understanding accordingly when we discover them (which should happen pretty frequently) rather than digging in and doubling down. Personally I think learning that is far more valuable than the actual material ... almost irrespective of what that material is.
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« Reply #8 on: Aug 11, 2015, 07:29AM »

On the contrary, although I can understand why it wouldn't appeal to a professional religious person such as yourself, I think doing it half-arsed would result in the non-Christian and non-professionally religious crowd gaining a lot of valuable insights.
I'd have to agree with Travis here. While the low hanging fruit might do some good, a half-***ed approach can also lead to a very different interpretation that is counter productive. The passage to turn the other cheek for instance is often taken at first glance as a call to be passive, when in depth it is readily shows to be non-violent resistance.

Half-***ed is often worse then not starting at all.

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Perhaps the fact that we are talking about doing it rather than doing it says something significant though...

And the fact that this is the third spin off in about religion in which it is still being talked about is even more telling.
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 11, 2015, 07:51AM »

On the contrary, although I can understand why it wouldn't appeal to a professional religious person such as yourself, I think doing it half-arsed would result in the non-Christian and non-professionally religious crowd gaining a lot of valuable insights. The low-hanging fruit is still yet to be plucked for many - and I'd certainly include myself in that - although I read about half of this book many years ago, a refresher would definitely not go amiss. I didn't read deep study as being the intention of what Tim talked about - rather the bringing to attention of the narrative.

Perhaps the fact that we are talking about doing it rather than doing it says something significant though...

Perhaps when we finish the Bible, we can start on the Koran... Or maybe we should cover that first?

My education has taught me that when it comes to the world of faith, there is always another perspective.  if we faithfully engage the conversation and truly listen to the other, then nothing is as black/white or right/wrong as we desire.  The problem with most Americans is that we do not listen to learn and grow.  We listen so that we can figure out the right answer/response.  See my post below from another thread that speaks to the socio-political context of America which was highly shaped by the understanding of faith thru the lens of the Reformation. 

I am going to approach this and all Christian faith related discussion from an entirely different direction to see if it might offer some insights into the discussion.

I spent the past weekend in a 3 day retreat of large group and small group spiritual direction.  We talked extensively about several spiritual practices that Christians can use to grow deeper in their relationship with God.  Things like The Examen, Silent Meditation, and a few other things (still used in the Roman Catholic tradition) - all practices to empty self and be open to the movement of God.  These practices are definitely things that the participants engaged as part of the time on retreat. 

The presenters were quick to point out that Churches of the Reformation (as lead by Luther in response to his understanding of Works righteousness as he understood or experienced or perceived in the Roman Catholic church) were quick to move towards the faith as belief in Christ as understood thru Scripture to avoid the potential of making faith about individual "works."

Taking that point further - When the move turned to belief, the push came to define the "right" beliefs and the "right" nature of scripture.  Today we stand formed by 500 years of identifying self against the other.  Luther said that he believed this and the RC church believed that.  Soon others followed suit and new denomination or even splinters within denominations took place.  (IMO - Luther over-corrected and went too far the other way but that is often debated)

The historian in me says that this desire for the "right" belief (as lead by Luther with the best of intentions) is the very root of the mess in the US political environment.  When personal beliefs and ideology become more important than community and relationship with others any group takes a dangerous wrong turn.  The sad truth is that both sides are guilty of this approach and both sides of the debate will be responsible for the results.  But instead of taking responsibility for self (individual or group), we blame someone else. Scapegoating is so much easier than taking responsibility for self. 

Those same patterns at work in the "hot topic" discussions on the board. 

The other sad truth is that the dynamics and attitudes at work in the religion discussions on this forum are exactly why we have people my age and younger are fed up with the institutional Church.  Addition to this thread - The rhetoric in this thread is the same as in the Church.  People are still people...

Mark Twain said it quite well, "Actions speak louder than words... but not nearly as often."

The frustration for me is that to engage this discussion faithfully one must be open ideas that are different than one might currently believe.  When an individual's faith gets challenged, the response can be quite interesting - in my experience the response is most likely defensive and aggressive towards the one who offers the idea that challenges the individuals "beliefs."  This is not something to be taken lightly or to be done without respect for the other.  Some are comfortable with having their reality messed with and others are not.  I watched several classmates in seminary that I greatly respected and appreciated do some CRAZY stuff when their understandings were challenged.  The other truth is most people lack the self-awareness to understand what is going on inside when this happens. 
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« Reply #10 on: Aug 11, 2015, 07:58AM »

I think we are in danger of missing the point of the idea here... It's a book of a thousand-odd pages, each with a lot of detail. We wouldn't be turning over the meanings of individual phrases on a regular basis - or even doing much in the way of challenging ways of thinking. We'd be noting the big picture stuff - the overall shape of the history and mythology of the ancient Jews, if I might be permitted to use my own perspective to frame it.
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Dave Taylor

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« Reply #11 on: Aug 11, 2015, 08:09AM »

I think we are in danger of missing the point of the idea here... It's a book of a thousand-odd pages, each with a lot of detail. We wouldn't be turning over the meanings of individual phrases on a regular basis - or even doing much in the way of challenging ways of thinking. We'd be noting the big picture stuff - the overall shape of the history and mythology of the ancient Jews, if I might be permitted to use my own perspective to frame it.

I hear you Dave! I appreciate and respect the point.  I think that is a great idea. Give it a try if you so desire.

(Putting on the cynic's hat here) My training says that even between the idiomatic nature of Hebrew and the variances in English translations, we will end up in some of those conversations where we argue of details instead of working to understanding the overarching nature of the story and major themes.  Even within Christian circles those are up for debate. In the 10 years between undergrad and seminary I saw fair amount of things that shifted when it came to Biblical understanding.  Archeology and the growth of the social sciences have changed our insights into scripture.  (cynic's hat is off)

Perhaps a "Major Themes of the Hebrew Bible" and a "Major Themes of the New Testament" might be a better way to frame the discussion????
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« Reply #12 on: Aug 11, 2015, 08:18AM »

Oh, I'm sure it would run aground from time to time. Interesting to learn how so though...

I'll wait to see if any more expressions of interest turn up for a day or two before launching anything. I'm happy to start it off if enough want to give it a go - I think we'd need 5 or 6 people at least contributing to make it worth attempting - but it might generate some of its own momentum as it went.

Perhaps you could do us the favour of suggesting a suitable version to use... I note that there is an online KJV, which would be my natural inclination (ancestor of modern English versions, and a pleasing prose style), but there are more options than that out there...
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Dave Taylor

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« Reply #13 on: Aug 11, 2015, 08:38AM »

In the American context Biblical translations are also hot button issues.

In my experience, I find my translations of both Greek and Hebrew ending up somewhere between the following translations:
- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- New American Bible (NAB)
- New American Bible Updated (NAU)

As part of my sermon prep I look a multiple translations as well as the original text.  I note the differences between the translations then go to the original text and look at the original word in question.

Another truth is that each translation has a bias.  Some work to do a "word for word" translation and others work to make the text more readable.  Others contain a theological bias based on who was involved in the translation. 

As for a good resource that offers a several translations is http://bible.oremus.org
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« Reply #14 on: Aug 11, 2015, 08:56AM »

Another option to consider and one that would be easier for me to participate is following the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary - just putting it out there.
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« Reply #15 on: Aug 11, 2015, 09:05AM »

I've done it once, it was a couple years of effort, and while I think we enjoyed it it was fatiguing after a while.  I'm not sure I'm up for it again.  Let me think on it. 
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« Reply #16 on: Aug 11, 2015, 09:11AM »

I watched several classmates in seminary that I greatly respected and appreciated do some CRAZY stuff when their understandings were challenged.
Alright man ... you can't just post something like that and drive on. Let's hear a bit about that, eh?
 
The other truth is most people lack the self-awareness to understand what is going on inside when this happens.
I don't know if self-awareness has diminished over the last few decades or if I just expect people to get a bit better about that over time, but it sure does seem to be much too rare. All the more for the sense that others are their own persons and come from their own worlds and such.
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« Reply #17 on: Aug 11, 2015, 09:18AM »

I think we are in danger of missing the point of the idea here... It's a book of a thousand-odd pages, each with a lot of detail. We wouldn't be turning over the meanings of individual phrases on a regular basis - or even doing much in the way of challenging ways of thinking. We'd be noting the big picture stuff - the overall shape of the history and mythology of the ancient Jews, if I might be permitted to use my own perspective to frame it.
I hear you Dave! I appreciate and respect the point.  I think that is a great idea. Give it a try if you so desire.

(Putting on the cynic's hat here) My training says that even between the idiomatic nature of Hebrew and the variances in English translations, we will end up in some of those conversations where we argue of details instead of working to understanding the overarching nature of the story and major themes.  Even within Christian circles those are up for debate. In the 10 years between undergrad and seminary I saw fair amount of things that shifted when it came to Biblical understanding.  Archeology and the growth of the social sciences have changed our insights into scripture.  (cynic's hat is off)

Perhaps a "Major Themes of the Hebrew Bible" and a "Major Themes of the New Testament" might be a better way to frame the discussion????

I'd kinda like to kick things off with Steven Pinker's summary of the Old Testament from The Better Angels of Our Nature--kind of as an intro to the process. It may be better put to use as a discussion topic in Religion Matters 3.0 though. Anyone familiar with it? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts on these idears.
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« Reply #18 on: Aug 11, 2015, 11:50AM »

In the American context Biblical translations are also hot button issues.

In my experience, I find my translations of both Greek and Hebrew ending up somewhere between the following translations:
- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- New American Bible (NAB)
- New American Bible Updated (NAU)

As part of my sermon prep I look a multiple translations as well as the original text.  I note the differences between the translations then go to the original text and look at the original word in question.

Another truth is that each translation has a bias.  Some work to do a "word for word" translation and others work to make the text more readable.  Others contain a theological bias based on who was involved in the translation. 

As for a good resource that offers a several translations is http://bible.oremus.org

Travis, are you refering to the NAB(a Catholic translation with the entire bible) or the NASB (a Protestant version with the deuterocanonical books missing?)  I ask because there is no NABU(pdatated)
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« Reply #19 on: Aug 11, 2015, 01:28PM »

I use a program called bibleworks and in the version I have the quick reference info I have labels one as NAB and the other NAB. I will get more for you in the morning. Also, I would include the Apocrypha in the discussion as I believe it has worth but others would not agree.
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