On the secularization of the theological concept

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Nikolai
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On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Nikolai » Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:05 pm

Arvind13 wrote:The kind of questions that Europe/West asks about human beings (especially in fields like psychology and philosophy) don't make sense to anyone who is not born within the framework of semitic religion (Christian, Muslim, or Jewish cultural background). All its claims about human beings, that human beings have rights, the notion of personhood, about the nature of state, the nature of law, etc are "secularized" versions of Christian theologies
Indeed, but Christian theology was hugely influenced by the philosophical ideas that were already in currency in the western world and so already we see that that theology and philosophy can be very hard to distinguish. I’m sure we could write books about the important philosophical influences on Christianity. Already with Thales and his “Everything is really water” we have a duality between the apparent world as it appears to the senses, and things as they really in fact are. By the time we get to Plato and his eternal but mysterious realm of the Ideas we are seeing the prototypes of unfathomable realities that lie behind and shape the life of mortals. God, heaven and the search for salvation are just a short step away. They are Christian reworkings of Greek philosophy.

So the concepts that your Balaganghadhara sees as shaping the interpretation of Eastern religion are as much philosophical as theological. If the attempt to describe and measure other cultures according to these concepts is now happening in the social sciences then it seems that we have three conflated approaches: first the philosophical, then the theological and now the scientific – all of them employing the same concepts.

Despite the multi-disciplinary flavour of the concepts, you say that they still fail to understand the eastern religions mindset, and I think you are right. But I disagree that this is because we are securalising concepts that belong to theology. I think it is because there is a very fundamental difference between Western and Eastern religion.

In the west there has always been a strong determination to preserve a duality between an experiencing subject and the reality that is experienced. It is present in Plato, it persisted throughout Christian thought. The religious experience was an encounter between the unregenerate ego and an almighty God. As Christianity became established any denial of God or inflation of the ego to the level of God was a heretical crime. As Christianity weakened the existence of God was questioned through the rise of materialism and philosophical skepticism. Kant protected God against the presumptions of science and reality by placing God (as the noumenon) behind a veil impenetrable by the human intellect. But Kant’s whole doctrine was based on the assumption that there is an individual human ego perceiving the world through the senses. He never thought to question the fundamental duality that is the hallmark of western thought. The belief in the subject and object led to the belief in the phenomenal and the noumenal.

As I’m sure you know, Eastern religion is based on the transcendence of dualistic categories. Unity seems to be the aim, and is the notion to be preserved at all costs. If a system results in a duality then it is a sign that the system is in error. Clearly, where there is an attempt to overcome such dualities as the subject and object the religious Supreme is not likely to be a personal God. The supreme is likely to be thought of as impersonal and the experiencing ego an illusion. Non-duality can be seen as the defining feature of eastern thought across India and Buddhist Asia. The notion is seen in religious thinkers like Buddha and Lao Tzu, and in philosophers like Nagarjuna and Dogen.

What western commentators take to the east are concepts that are neither theological nor secular. They are concepts that are common to western philosophy, theology and science. They go misunderstood in the east, not because of religious difference but because of a fundamental epistemological divergence: unity and duality.

The matter is undoubtedly complicated by the fact that philosophy and religion in particular have come to mean different things in east and west. Since Kant, religion and philosophy have parted ways. In the East it is still recognised that the search for truth has a soteriological result. Wisdom shall bring you moksha; in the west it is thought that salvation must come through faith. But even if these differences hadn’t emerged (and since Nietzsche and Kierkegaard western philosophy is returning to its old ways) there would still be this basic sticking point between east and west. On one of half of the world we assume the subject, and on the other half we try to see past it.

If eastern cultures feel that western concepts are dictating how eastern religions are perceived, if it feels like there is a power imbalance, then I’m sure that The Heathen is an important attempt to reveal the reality behind the western concepts. But if we think that their theological history undermines the western concepts and that we should therefore distrust them then I think that would be a mistake. Their intellectual foundations are as robust as they can be, and as robust as anything that comes from the east. But they are irreconcilably different and the only solution is the very paradoxical and mystical view which identifies unity and duality.

Best wishes, Nikolai

arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:36 pm

thank you very much for your willingness to engage in a discussion. I hope we can we have a stimulating discussion about this. Regarding your above post: not quite. :). it's not about dualism.


Let me leave it at that for now. You obviously put lot of thought and effort into your post and it requires a better response than that. I feel a thoughtful post like yours requires a thoughtful and respectful response, so give me time to organize my thoughts in my head and i'll respond to your post in more detail. Because the ideas in the book (The Heathen in his blindness) are numerous and go into lot of depth, the discussion needs to be taken step by step

I would just ask a favour, you can either do it or choose not to, it's fine. Try reading the Heathen from the beginning a little bit at a time. I promise you will find it interesting. Even if you don't agree with everything that's said, you'll find it well researched, at the least.


ps. for other members, this thread is a continuation of the discussion that was started at the end of another thread called "Straw Dogs" in the "political philosophy" section

arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:55 am

Ok, I am ready to respond to your post. First of all, I disagree about characterizing cultures in terms of either embracing or going beyond dualism. There are several reasons:(a) it is too simplistic; (b) what constitutes `dualism' depends on the level of abstraction one pitches one's description at; (c) dualism has too many philosophical connotations, which are confusing in the present context;


secondly, you talk about Christianity itself being influenced by Greek philosophical ideas. not quite. if you read chapter 2 of 'The Heathen' closely, you can see how Christian ideas and doctrines spread in Ancient Rome and Greece by riding piggy back on the available pagan ideas and philosophy but *distorting* these fundamentally. Thus, by becoming parasitic on pagan ideas and distorting them, Christian religion could build on the available ideas and beliefs of a human community in order to spread. There must have been some *tipping point* where so many of the pagan ideas had been distorted through the Christian framework that the internal conceptual logic and coherence of these pagan ideas broke down, and was replaced by the internal logic of the Christian theological account. In other words, Christian theology absorbed Greek Philosophical ideas within it's own framework and "christianized" them so much to the point they no longer bore any resemblance to the original philosophy. Western philosophy after the Greeks and romans had almost no resemblance to the philosophy of the ancients. The questions themselves had been transformed. As an example, I present you this quote from John Gray's Straw Dogs:

""The bequest of Socrates was to tether the pursuit of truth to a mystical ideal of the good. Yet neither Socrates nor any other ancient thinker imagined that truth could make mankind free. They took for granted that freedom would always remain the privilege of a few. By contrast, among contemporary humanists, the Greek faith that truth makes us free has been fused with one of Christianity's most dubious legacies - the belief that the hope of freedom belongs to everyone."

This is just one small example. there are many many such examples; Greek philosophical concepts and questions have been distorted and transformed by modern western
philosophy, which is itself grounded in christian theology


This all comes back to the secularization of Christianity. In order to understand this, one needs to understand the dynamic of Christianity ( the same dynamic is shared by the other two 'semitic' religions, Judaism and Islam). I will talk about this in my next post....... to be continued...... :)

arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:20 am

The book (Heathen in his blindness) claims that Christianity expands in two ways. (This is not just typical of Christianity but of Islam and Judaism as well. I will talk only of Christianity because I want to talk about the western culture.) Both of these have been present ever since the inception of Christianity and have mutually reinforced each other. The first is familiar to all of us: direct conversion. People from other cultures and ‘religions’ are explicitly converted to Christianity and thus the community of Christian believers grows. This is the ‘surface’ or explicit expansion of Christianity. This has been a theme of intense controversy but, according to me, not of very great consequence when compared to the second way Christianity also expands.


Funnily enough, the second way in which Christianity expands is also familiar to us: the process of secularization. I claim that Christianity ‘secularizes’ itself in the form of, as it were, ‘dechristianised Christainity’. What this word means is: typically Christian doctrines spread wide and deep (beyond the confines of the community of Christian believers) in the society dressed up in ‘secular’ (that is, not in recognizably ‘Christian’) clothes. We need a very small bit of Western history here in order to understand this point better.


Usually, the ‘enlightenment period’, which is identified as ‘the Age of Reason’, is alleged to be the apotheosis (or the ‘high point’) of the process of ‘secularization’. What people normally mean by ‘secularization’ here is the following: the enlightenment thinkers are supposed to have successfully ‘fought’ against the dominance that religion (i.e. Christianity) had until then exercised over social, political, and economic life. From then on, the standard textbook story is that the dominant grip of religion loosened, and Europe became all 'modern' and 'secular' and scientific, believers in democracy, the role of reason in social life; the value of human rights etc. This is the standard textbook story.


The problem with this story is simply this: the enlightenment thinkers have built their formidable reputation (as opponents of ‘all organized religion’ or even ‘religion’) by selling ideas from Protestant Christianity as though they were ‘neutral’ and ‘rational’. Take for example the claim that ‘religion’ is not a matter for state intervention and that it is a ‘private’ affair of the individual in question. Who thought, do you think, that ‘religion’ was not a ‘private’ affair? The Catholic Church, of course. Even to this day, it believes that you should believe what the Church says, and that because the Church mediates between Man and God, what you believe in (as a Christian) is decided by the Catholic Church. The Protestants fought a battle with the Catholics on theological grounds: they argued that ‘being a Christian believer’ (or what the Christian believes in) is matter between the Maker (i.e. God) and the Individual. It was God (i.e. the Christian God), who judged man; and men could not judge each other in matters of Christian faith. The Church, they argued, could not mediate between Man and God. To cut the long story short, the Protestants won this theological battle. The enlightenment thinkers repeated this Protestant story, and this has become our ‘secularism’. to be continued.....

arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:30 am

The same story applies with respect to what is enshrined in the UN charter. The doctrine of Human Rights (as we know them today) arose in the Middle Ages, when the Franciscans and the Dominicans fought each other. (Both are religious orders within the Catholic Church.) All theories of human rights we know today were elaborated in this struggle that continued nearly for two hundred years. They were theological debates.


I am not merely making the point that these ideas had their origin in religious contexts. My point is much more than that: I claim that we cannot accept these theories without, at the same time, accepting Christian theology as true. What the western thinkers have done over the centuries (the Enlightenment period is the best known for being the ‘high point’ of this process) is to dress up Christian theological ideas (I am blurring the distinction between the divisions within Christianity) in a secular mantle. Not just this or that isolated idea, but theological theories themselves.


I am not in the least suggesting that this is some kind of a conspiracy. I am merely explicating what I mean when I say that Christianity spreads also through the process of secularization. What have been secularized are whole sets of ideas about Man and Society which I call ‘Biblical themes’. They are Biblical themes because to accept them is to accept the truth of the Bible. Most of our so-called ‘social sciences’ assume the truth of these Biblical themes.

This is the insidious process talked about earlier: the process of secularization of Christian ideas. I have not been able to do justice to the richness of this process: an inevitable price one pays for condensing complex analyses into short posts. Let the ‘simplistic’ presentation not lead you to think that the ideas proposed are ‘simplistic’. They are not.

thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:04 am

Hello, I appologize for not reading the book or not getting to all of the thread, but I found this by Arvind13 on the other thread and it sparked a question.

"The kind of questions that Europe/West asks about human beings (especially in fields like psychology and philosophy) don't make sense to anyone who is not born within the framework of semitic religion (Christian, Muslim, or Jewish cultural background). All its claims about human beings, that human beings have rights, the notion of personhood, about the nature of state, the nature of law, etc are "secularized" versions of Christian theologies (by secularized I mean they are theological ideas dressed up in a neutral or scientific garb). They don't make sense to people like Chinese, Japanese, Indians who don't have these religions. In other words, the questions of Europe about human beings are not scientific questions, but theological questions.

Balagangadhara's book is revolutionary in the sense that it rewrites the history of European/Western culture. The story and history of Western culture is the story and history of Western Christianity. He does not merely make the claim that Christianity influenced the Western culture (everyone knows that, it's been discussed to death). The claim is that the history and story of the 'West' is the constant 'secularization' of Christian theological concepts. In this context, secularization refers to a process in which religious doctrines become increasingly more 'formalised'; in which they cast off their explicitly christian features and spreads in society in a 'neutral form'. The basic conceptual structure of these doctrines are retained, but dressed up in an alterable secular garb. The modern, secular institutions and ideas of Europe are still very much rooted in Biblical theology. This theology has influenced how the "West" has viewed, experienced, and described and continue to describe other cultures.

If his theory is right, it represents a paradigm shift in the social sciences and cultural studies. We will have to discard most if not all of our current theories about human beings, societies, and cultures"

I tried to trim it just a bit, but is this 'secularization' in any way related to the practice of religions that tend to 'concreteize' the scriptures and theology into articles of faith that must be accepted as written? I discovered this concept stated quite well by Joseph Campbell. Also on the other thread Nikolai proposed the concept that all religions were the same and this is another concept put forth by Campbell except that he wrote that all religions grew out of Mythology and all mythologies had the same origins so all religions had the same origins, it's just that many have taken drastically divergent courses.

thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:17 am

I also had some thoughts about dualism but I'll wait till I've read the rest of the thread.

The other point that occured to me about the secularization of religiion related to Campbells comments on translating the litergy into the vernacular from the Latin and placing the preist behind the alter facing the congregation. His point, as I understand it, was that the preist is an intermediary between the congregation and God, and is addressing the mysterious in a language that is not understood, and therefore should not be facing the congregation, but should be facing God as represented by the Cross. The only difficulty with this intrepretation is that when the litergy was first written it may have been the venacular and only became foreign as Latin fell out of common use.

arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:26 am

hi thedoc,

thanks for joining this discussion. to answer your question: no. Secularization merely refers to theological concepts spreading in society in a 'neutral' form (by detaching itself from the explicit religious beliefs/doctrines). In terms of Christianity, it means Christianity also spreads in a dechristianised form.

please read my two posts above your posts. It is elaborated in those posts.

Nikolai
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Nikolai » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:14 pm

Hi Arvind - thanks for your reply

I agree with much of what you say and the more I read the book the more I realise its importance, but it perhaps doesn't go far enough... My chief queries are related to the following quotes:
Thus, by becoming parasitic on pagan ideas and distorting them, Christian religion could build on the available ideas and beliefs of a human community in order to spread.
But then later you say:
The problem with this story is simply this: the enlightenment thinkers have built their formidable reputation (as opponents of ‘all organized religion’ or even ‘religion’) by selling ideas from Protestant Christianity as though they were ‘neutral’ and ‘rational’.
So in the first instance we have Christians distorting the secular ideas of Greek philosophy - in other words the Christians tried to pass off secular ideas as theological. But then in the enlightenment you claim that the secular thinkers of the time were not really secular but using Christian concepts in disguise. Why are the enlightenment figures only apparently secular? Why were not the first Christians only apparently theological?

For some reason you place a particular primacy on the Christians. You imagine that they were able to commandeer secular Greek ideas for their own purpose but then deny that that the secularists of the enlightenment were simply reclaiming the rationality of the pre-Christians. Why do you consider the Christians more 'insidious' in doing this than any other thinkers before or since.

You seem to attribute an intellectual force and coherence to the Christian movement that never existed. The living example of Jesus was that of as healer and a prophet. It was down to others to formulate Christian theology and this was performed by thinkers who acquired extant philosophical notions, with creative amendations. In this they were no different to the pagans, the scientists or indeed any other thinkers.

These issues resolve if we learn to see that philosophy and theology are so dependent on each other as to be pretty much indistinguishable. They might have a slightly different flavour' to them that makes different people react to them in different ways, but in terms of their content they are impossible to separate. Thought is thought, ultimately. Divisions into disciplines like theology, philosophy etc is convenient for discussion's sake, but we mustn't take the concepts too seriously. It is just lines drawn in the sand. All thinkers work by assuming unproven premises and then proceeding logically to conclusions. If a premise is unproven its epistemological status is identical to the next unproven premise. A concept like God's love is therefore analogous to a concept like gravity.

As I said, it is important that you recognise the affinity between the religious and the secular in western thought, but I think you must resist the temptation to say "therefore it is all really theological". This would be unjustified.

Best wishes, Nikolai

arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 » Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:40 am

"So in the first instance we have Christians distorting the secular ideas of Greek philosophy - in other words the Christians tried to pass off secular ideas as theological. But then in the enlightenment you claim that the secular thinkers of the time were not really secular but using Christian concepts in disguise. Why are the enlightenment figures only apparently secular? Why were not the first Christians only apparently theological?"


Not really. I didn't say they tried to pass off greek secular ideas as theological. I claim that they interpreted Greek Philosophical ideas within a Christian framework. Sometimes, this was done in an overt manner. For example, Epicurus' concept of "libera voluntas" was taken over by St. Augustine and he completely reinterpreted and transformed the concept into the modern notion of free will, which had almost nothing in common with Epicurus' 'libera voluntas'. Sometimes it occurs in a 'covert' 'insidious' manner. That excerpt from "straw dogs" is a prime example. Socrates' ideal of the pursuit of truth was morphed by many secular humanists into the idea that truth will set us free and lead to human progress. This is a secularized variant of divine providence and universal salvation. This is not a conscious process. This occurs without them even realizing that they are 'secularizing' theological ideas. This brings me to the second point.

you say "You imagine that they were able to commandeer secular Greek ideas for their own purpose but then deny that that the secularists of the enlightenment were simply reclaiming the rationality of the pre-Christians "

and also "You seem to attribute an intellectual force and coherence to the Christian movement that never existed "

The secularization of Christianity cannot be attributed to some conscious cognitive or psychological mechanism. It has little to do with the individual/group psychology or the intentions and motives of Christians. It certainly has nothing to do with the intellectual force or coherence of the Christian movement.

Christianity absorbs whatever it encounters into its own framework, because of its dynamic as a religion. It is a process and not merely a movement of people. Proselytization and secularization constitute the two poles of the expansive dynamic of religion.

The secular ideals of the enlightenment thinkers were just protestant ideals in a different guise. the thinkers from this period fought Christianity, attacked its doctrines
–though not openly – and made fun of its beliefs. They were fighting religion, but only to free it from recognisably Christian clothes. The victory thereafter was the victory of religion in another set of clothes.

This process of evangelization and secularization has to do with the structure of religion, not with the motives and intentions and intelligence of a group of people.

thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc » Fri Nov 02, 2012 4:51 pm

arvind13 wrote: . This is not a conscious process. This occurs without them even realizing that they are 'secularizing' theological ideas. This brings me to the second point.

you say "You imagine that they were able to commandeer secular Greek ideas for their own purpose but then deny that that the secularists of the enlightenment were simply reclaiming the rationality of the pre-Christians "

and also "You seem to attribute an intellectual force and coherence to the Christian movement that never existed "

The secularization of Christianity cannot be attributed to some conscious cognitive or psychological mechanism. It has little to do with the individual/group psychology or the intentions and motives of Christians. It certainly has nothing to do with the intellectual force or coherence of the Christian movement.
Within the framework of secularization of Christianity I would suggest that there were some policies that were consciously pursued by the leadership if not by the general membership of Christians. One example is the inclusion of women into the religious practice. it is my belief that Christ did not exclude women, and there were several that were prominant in his company. It was only later that the church leadership inserted language that would limit the role of women in the church. The primary example is here
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
New King James Version (NKJV)
34 Let your[a] women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.
I am of the opinion that this was inserted later and was not part of the original letter. There are other examples that illustrate the chrches efforts to control the lives of the membership, and yes, limiting the role of women was an extension of the existing culture, but again I believe that Christ intended to include women more into the church. So this could be an example of the church taking a secular social practice and over writing the intention of Christianity. The question is then is the subjugation of women a secular concept that was grafted into Christian teaching, if so it certainly was a conscious effort.
For further consideration there is later Papal involvment in the political and military aspects of European society, these were not part of Christian theology.

thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc » Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:18 pm

arvind13 wrote: Ok, I am ready to respond to your post. First of all, I disagree about characterizing cultures in terms of either embracing or going beyond dualism. There are several reasons:(a) it is too simplistic; (b) what constitutes `dualism' depends on the level of abstraction one pitches one's description at; (c) dualism has too many philosophical connotations, which are confusing in the present context;

I would agree with this in that in most cultures only a few of the members who are most aware of religious concepts would give much, if any, thought to dualism.

[Please excuse a minor digression, To paraphrase Jeff Foxworhty, "Redneck Dualism - Ya got 4 tires and extra wide fenders on the back of yer pickup truck"] Sorry about that.

I am somewhat familiar with dualism in Buddhism and receintly became aware that it was a term used in Christianity, but the useage is just a bit different. In my understanding, dualism in Buddhism is to achieve an understanding of the basic concept of any idea as seperate from the knowledge of individual items. To use a common example we can easily describe a chair and point to different examples or say ther there is a chair here but not there. Whether you describe several different chairs or know that in one place there is a chair and in another place there isn't, either is an example of dualism, but the aim of non-dualism is to achieve an understanding of the concept of a chair that is universal to all chairs.
In Christianity dualism has taken on another meaning and that is 'seperation from God'. To be with God is unity 'non-dualism' and to be seperated is to be in the realm of dualism. The Genisis account is the story of man's unity with God and then his being thrust into dualism. It is my intrepretation that this is symbolic of man's becoming self aware which includs man's knowledge of his mortality. In a non-dualistic state man was in unity with God and was not self aware and not consciously aware of his own mortality. Living in dualism came from awareness of the self and death, but not death as just something that happens as a part of life, but something that would someday happen to him, and this sparked the concept of what happens after death. According to Campbell one of the functions of Mythology is to indoctrinate people into the concept that death was a part of the process of living, and not something seperate or opposite.

arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 » Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:43 pm

thedoc wrote:
arvind13 wrote: . This is not a conscious process. This occurs without them even realizing that they are 'secularizing' theological ideas. This brings me to the second point.

you say "You imagine that they were able to commandeer secular Greek ideas for their own purpose but then deny that that the secularists of the enlightenment were simply reclaiming the rationality of the pre-Christians "

and also "You seem to attribute an intellectual force and coherence to the Christian movement that never existed "

The secularization of Christianity cannot be attributed to some conscious cognitive or psychological mechanism. It has little to do with the individual/group psychology or the intentions and motives of Christians. It certainly has nothing to do with the intellectual force or coherence of the Christian movement.
Within the framework of secularization of Christianity I would suggest that there were some policies that were consciously pursued by the leadership if not by the general membership of Christians. One example is the inclusion of women into the religious practice. it is my belief that Christ did not exclude women, and there were several that were prominant in his company. It was only later that the church leadership inserted language that would limit the role of women in the church. The primary example is here
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
New King James Version (NKJV)
34 Let your[a] women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.
I am of the opinion that this was inserted later and was not part of the original letter. There are other examples that illustrate the chrches efforts to control the lives of the membership, and yes, limiting the role of women was an extension of the existing culture, but again I believe that Christ intended to include women more into the church. So this could be an example of the church taking a secular social practice and over writing the intention of Christianity. The question is then is the subjugation of women a secular concept that was grafted into Christian teaching, if so it certainly was a conscious effort.
For further consideration there is later Papal involvment in the political and military aspects of European society, these were not part of Christian theology.

good point thedoc. the inclusion of women was indeed consciously pursued by the Christian church. one small caveat. Even when Christian authorities consciously pursued certain actions (for whatever reason), they weren't consciously thinking "let's spread christianity in a dechristianized form". it's just something that happens because of the dynamic of christianity. for example, when many of the modern thinkers advocated and wrote about human rights and freedom of choice, they may not have been consciously aware that they were spreading christian theology in another form (human rights as we know them today originated in a theological debate between franciscans and dominicans, freedom of choice is a 'secular translation' of the theological doctrine that God gave us the freedom to choose between him and the devil).

btw, for anyone who is following this thread. here is Professor S.N. Balagangadhara's talk at a conference (Rethinking Religion in India) that summarizes lot of the main ideas of his book (The Heathen in his blindness), including secularization and whether religion is universal or not: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSfNyGSiRck

Nikolai
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Nikolai » Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:54 pm

Arvind,

You didn't really address my main query but rather restated it. I'll demonstrate the inconsistency as it appears in your latest post. On the one hand you say:
arvind13 wrote:St. Augustine and he completely reinterpreted and transformed the concept into the modern notion of free will, which had almost nothing in common with Epicurus' 'libera voluntas'
So we have Augustine "completely transforming" a philosophical concept. But then:
arvind13 wrote:They [the enlightenment philosophers] were fighting religion, but only to free it from recognisably Christian clothes. The victory thereafter was the victory of religion in another set of clothes.
So Christians like Augustine, for some reason were able to completely transform non-Christian ideas for their own purposes, but the enlightenment philosophers, open atheists some of them, were only able to reproduce the same ideas but in a different sounding garb.

It is up to you to explain why you interpret history in this way. Why were not Augustine and a thinker like, say, Voltaire not attempting a similar thing. Why was Augustine able to completely transform, but Voltaire merely redecorate?

Later on you describe something you see as distinctively religious:
arvind13 wrote:Christianity absorbs whatever it encounters into its own framework, because of its dynamic as a religion. It is a process and not merely a movement of people. Proselytization and secularization constitute the two poles of the expansive dynamic of religion.
Now to me, what you describe is just the process of evolution in thought. If religions 'proselytize and secularise' their concepts then the sciences certainly 'proselytize and sanctify' their own concepts. One doesn't have to spend too much time with sceintists to realise that that they too have their own saints and their own attitude to who they perceive as the heretics. But you might say that this is because scientific concepts are irredeemably theological!

It would help your cause if you could define what you mean by theological and what you mean by secular. To me the two terms are practically synonymous. Like I said, you are right to highlight the dependence that secular concepts have on the theological - you have used the term 'parasitic' in your posts - what I can't understand is why you are not willing to recognise the symbiosis. If secular concepts are dressed up theology, then so too are theological concepts dressed up secularisms.

Best wishes, Nikolai

Nikolai
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Nikolai » Fri Nov 02, 2012 7:17 pm

Hi the doc,
thedoc wrote:I would agree with this in that in most cultures only a few of the members who are most aware of religious concepts would give much, if any, thought to dualism.
Arvind was critical of duality as an explanation and for good reason. It is a fairly noticeable difference between east and west but doesn't really hold water as THE difference.

Duality is the assumption behind western philosophy and appears in the form of subject and object, it is also the assumption behind western Semitic religions in the form of man and God. For a thinker to deny subject and object is to deny the whole enterprise of epistemology, arguably the backbone of western thought. For a religious thinker to equate man with God is to invite charges of either atheism or blasphemy, which is perhaps why it hasn't put down roots in Christendom.

In the east philosophy and religion haven't separated as they have in the west, therefore there is no particular worry about transcending epistemology - indeed to do so is where the religious path starts. If we take the whole of the east the pre-eminent religio-philosophical thinker was the Buddha, whose whole teaching was designed to show that the self was an illusion and the cause of existential suffering. In India, the religious milieu comprised both dualists and monists, but monism was certainly represented to a much greater degree than in the west and dates back to the Tat tvam asi formula of the Vedanta.

I can't think of a better way of distinguishing east and west than on the issue of duality, but as I said, it is by no means perfect.

Best wishes, Nikolai

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