Theology Pascal's Projected Apologia Essay

Pages: 7 (2085 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

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To a certain degree, though, Lash is offering a Christianized version of the conclusion in the modernist philosophy of Wittgenstein: "whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." Lash implies that, to a certain degree, rhetorical invocations of God among "believers and nonbelievers alike" have cheapened religion, because "speaking appropriately of God is, while not impossible, the most difficult, the most demanding, the most dangerous thing that human speech can do." This fails to distinguish that, of course, for a believer taking the name of God in vain is a sin; for the nonbeliever it is merely a rhetorical tic, which serves to cheapen the sincere rhetoric of believers.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Jonathan Edwards provides in his famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" a sort of riposte avant la lettre to Lash here. It is worth noting that the full force of Edwards' rhetorical facility is here put onto display effectively to dramatize abstract theological concepts for an audience. In this case, Edwards -- a doctrinal Calvinist -- is trying to impress upon his New England Puritan congregation the full meaning of Calvin's doctrine of total depravity. This requires from Edwards a metaphor not so much to express God -- which is the sort of thing that Lash is warning us about -- but a metaphor to express the insignificance of man in comparison. This leads him to the famous comparison of the hand of God holding man like a loathsome spider above the fiery pit. If one views Edward's description in light of Lash's concerns, the result is likely to make God seem merely petty -- although one could certainly argue that Calvinist theology has already done the job for Edwards. But to a certain degree, using Lash to read Edwards is irrelevant. Edwards' own doctrinal certainties had already emerged from the culture of post-Reformation Puritan England: the backlash against Roman Catholicism in this period cannot be understated, as the English Puritans committed the sort of acts of iconoclasm (such as the destruction of Banbury Cross in Oxford) which one would more readily associate with the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas. Among other forms that this iconoclasm took was a total prohibition on stage drama, which was upheld in Edwards' New England. In other words, Edwards' own theological tradition emphasized the tremendous danger involved in dramatizing situations incorrectly, and thus providing a temptation to wickedness.

In a sense Edwards is doing for his congregants what the precisely similar sort of theological approach on the Roman Catholic side -- the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola -- would instruct Jesuits in training to do for themselves, in forcing vivid rhetorical and imaginative contemplation of the prospect of eternal torment. In light of these examples, Lash's complaints seem to derive from the sort of ecumenical multicultural jumble sale in which he extends the accusation of cheapening God by discussing Him to pretty much every creed on earth save Theraveda Buddhists, and nonbelievers as well. This understates the capacity -- within an orderly and intellectually coherent religious system -- to enable greater adherence to religious practice among believers by helping them to contemplate eternity. Such concepts are not easy to put into words anyway, and the difficulty is more likely to provoke disinterest rather than mystical contemplation in the average citizen: it strikes me that theologians have an absolute duty to employ whatever rhetorical means are available… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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