On the secularization of the theological concept

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arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 »

Secularization refers to a very specific phenomenon. It is when the logical form of religion is able to spread itself by disposing of its
semantic content. Let me give you an example:

Original argument
All humans are mortal.
Socrates is human.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
Argument Form
All H are M.
S is H.
Therefore, S is M.

The second argument retains the form of the first argument, but gets rid of the specifities and semantics. A similar process occurs in Christianity. One one hand Christianity spreads through the process of evangelization, where it tries to spread it's specific doctrines like God, salvation, damnation, Jesus Christ etc and try to win over converts into it's specific account. The augustinian transformation of 'libera voluntas would be an example of this. Augustine was creating explicit christian theology. On the other hand, it also spreads by trying to become as 'formal' as possible. It retains it's basic logical form but casts off it's specific doctrines and beliefs and becomes an increasingly variable account. The 'enlightenment' would be an example of the latter process

you said "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."

Yes, that's because the enlightenment thinkers were still operating within a Christian framework. I'll paraphrase John Gray here who said that Atheists aren't aware that just because they reject monotheistic beliefs, doesn't mean their categories of thinking have changed. The logical form of religion is retained and presented in a different way. That is what the enlightenment thinkers were doing (even though most (all?) were not aware of this). So secularization is a specific process different from evangelization and unique to religion.




watch this short clip (10 min): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDivLvRqTD4

Balu explains very articulately and clearly this concept of secularization. in fact just watch up to the 3:20 mark. the rest of the stuff is irrelevant for our discussion
Nikolai
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Location: Finland

Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Nikolai »

Your thesis only works if you assume two things:

1) That Augustine was able to shrug off pre-existing secular ideas
2) That the enlightenment thinkers thought they could shrug off Christianity but in fact couldn't.

I've asked you twice now but you have been unable to justify these two assumptions.

You therefore have nothing to argue against a person who might assume:

1) That Augustine wasn't able to shrug off pre-existing ideas.
2) And neither were the enlightenment thinkers.

Or:

1) That Augustine was able to shrug off pre-existing ideas.
2) And so too were the enlightenment thinkers.

Or even:

1) That Augustine wasn't able to shrug off pre-existing ideas.
2) That the enlightenment thinkers were able.

The last three arguments would result in a very different kind of book to The Heathen in his Blindness. Unless you refute them, The Heathen shall remain just another opinion piece amongst opinions, and not the paradigm shifting event you claim for it.
arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 »

Hi Nikolai,

Let me try to address your objections.

There are a number of issues with the way you approach this.

Firstly, trying to understand secularization from the standpoint of individual psychology (why did Augustine do this, whereas Voltaire did that) is futile. Because I am talking about secularization as a cultural process, something that shaped and structured western culture.

In one sense, the thesis is not about Augustine being "able to shrug off pre-existing 'secular' (non religious) ideas", whereas the enlightenment thinkers weren't able to shrug off Christianity. The early Christian theologians (including Augustine) did not 'shrug off' these greek ideas. Greek philosophical thought got absorbed and transformed and assimilated within a Christian framework. The kind of philosophical questions asked by 'post-christian' philosophers changed. The ideas of greek philosophers got a Christian 'spin' on them. This has little to do with the genius, thought processes, abilities or intentions of these theologians, but everything to do with Christianity. Christianity was predisposed to absorb the 'other'. That it took over some idea into its doctrines is not the point as much as what it made of that act. The doctrines elaborated and fleshed out a worldview. That is to say, the predisposition of Judaism, Christianity, and, at a later stage, Islam, to try to assimilate
the Greek philosophical thought has to do with the nature of religion.

Now, to come to your second point about the enlightenment thinkers. In Chapter 3 and 4 of the 'heathen', it is clearly outlined (step by step) that the 'secular' enlightenment thinkers formed their ideologies and theories about human beings and society out of protestant doctrines. It had little to with the ideas of the 'rational' Greek thinkers. Infact, the concept of the modern liberal state is founded on protestant doctrines. You asked why the enlightenment thinkers weren't able to shrug off Christianity. Let me elaborate:

(a) Religion constrains human thinking in two ways at least. It limits
the kind of questions and their possible answers in a way that other
accounts (say, scientific or philosophical accounts) do not. It is
also an enabling constraint in the sense that it gives structure to
human creativity. (Because all human thinking is a situated and
limited thinking, creativity makes sense only because of such a
definiteness.) This locates the spread of religion by speaking about
the cognitive aspect.

(b) Any learning process requires that the organism takes a definite
attitude towards its environment. Religion enables the emergence of
one such attitude because of its ability to generate a configuration
of learning.

When it comes to the 'secular' and 'secularization':

the distinction between ‘the secular’ and ‘the religious’ is drawn within a religion, by a religion and that it is a religious distinction. I spoke at length about the double dynamic of religion (proselytization and secularization). What does this dynamic do? It creates a religious world and a secularised religious world. The previous sentence must be understood literally: two worlds are created within religion. It is not a question of whether this or that theologian draws the distinction between the `sacred’ and the `profane’ or between `the spiritual’ and `the temporal’, but about the coming-into-being of two worlds: the world of religion and the world of human beings. The latter includes sports, computer programming, petroleum production, working as an engineer, building cars, setting up factories, designing and building cities etc etc. The world of religion is, of course, the world of God’s Will, His creations, His creatures. That means, it necessarily includes the `secular world’. That is to say, the `secular’ world of ours is how the religious world brings it forth, as a secularised religious world.

It is thus that a ‘secular’ world was to emerge later, but within the Christian world. It is a Christian-secular world that came into being, as generated within a religious world. That is why the secular world is under the grips of a religious world. That is also why the enlightenment thinkers weren't able to just "shrug off" the Christian framework of thinking. This is a process that has been going on since the inception of Christianity, and by the time 'enlightenment' came along, everything about the pagan, pre-christian europe had been absorbed and assimilated into a Christian framework. The enlightenment thinkers reproduced the Christian framework because that is the only framework they knew, the only one they were operating within. They are constrained by the cultural millieu they were born and raised in. So when it comes to theologians like Augustine, and enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, there is no contradiction in my argument at all. Both are producing and reproducing Christian theology, albeit in a slightly different form. Augustine 'christianized' Greek philosophy, precisely because he was a Christian and operating within that paradigm. 'secular' atheistic thinkers reproduce theology (in a 'neutral' form), because they also operate within that same paradigm. Augustine lived within a religious framework, a guy like Voltaire lived within a 'secular' religious framework.

But the end result of both their activities were the same: Christianity continued to spread.
Last edited by arvind13 on Sun Nov 04, 2012 6:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
arvind13
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Joined: Sun Oct 28, 2012 6:47 am

Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 »

So to answer your objections in a simpler way :)

1) Augustine was able to absorb/transform/assimilate (distort?) pre-existing Greek ideas within a Christian framework.
2) the enlightenment thinkers thought they could shrug off Christianity but in fact couldn't.

I justify these claims on the grounds that both were theologians. That is, both were operating within a christian paradigm. The enlightenment thinkers weren't able to "break free" because that is all they knew. They weren't able to shrug it off because they weren't aware that the 'rational', atheistic framework they were operating within was in fact Christian. What is considered 'religion' and the 'other' in European society was generated and structured by a religion (Christianity). The secular thinkers were fighting religion using a secularized form of religion (derived from Protestantism and Protestant criticism of Catholic Christianity).
thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

arvind13 wrote:Secularization refers to a very specific phenomenon. It is when the logical form of religion is able to spread itself by disposing of its
semantic content. Let me give you an example:

Original argument
All humans are mortal.
Socrates is human.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
Argument Form
All H are M.
S is H.
Therefore, S is M.

The second argument retains the form of the first argument, but gets rid of the specifities and semantics. A similar process occurs in Christianity. One one hand Christianity spreads through the process of evangelization, where it tries to spread it's specific doctrines like God, salvation, damnation, Jesus Christ etc and try to win over converts into it's specific account. The augustinian transformation of 'libera voluntas would be an example of this. Augustine was creating explicit christian theology. On the other hand, it also spreads by trying to become as 'formal' as possible. It retains it's basic logical form but casts off it's specific doctrines and beliefs and becomes an increasingly variable account. The 'enlightenment' would be an example of the latter process

A couple of points occur to me here, one would at least be similar to this secualrization, if not related to it. In Christianity much of the Christian Mythology has been concretized in the sense that the Bible is read as a literal history, when it should be read as Mythology. This concretizing has been made into dogma, and the teachings are expected to be believed as articles of faith. For example the literal reading states that there was a real individual named Noah and the details of his life were exactly as stated in the Bible. A mythological reading would mean that somewhere in the past there was a man who saved himself and his family and property from a flood. In the Mythological reading the details of the story are not important but there is a lesson about how man related to the world or God, the lesson is the important part. In a way the secularization of Christianity, by casting off of the specifics, is similar to a re-Mythologizing of the Bible where the details are de-emphasized and the meaning of the Myth becomes the main focus.
thedoc
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Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2012 4:18 pm

Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

arvind13 wrote:Hi Nikolai,

Let me try to address your objections.

There are a number of issues with the way you approach this.

Firstly, trying to understand secularization from the standpoint of individual psychology (why did Augustine do this, whereas Voltaire did that) is futile. Because I am talking about secularization as a cultural process, something that shaped and structured western culture.

In one sense, the thesis is not about Augustine being "able to shrug off pre-existing 'secular' (non religious) ideas", whereas the enlightenment thinkers weren't able to shrug off Christianity. The early Christian theologians (including Augustine) did not 'shrug off' these greek ideas. Greek philosophical thought got absorbed and transformed and assimilated within a Christian framework. The kind of philosophical questions asked by 'post-christian' philosophers changed. The ideas of greek philosophers got a Christian 'spin' on them. This has little to do with the genius, thought processes, abilities or intentions of these theologians, but everything to do with Christianity. Christianity was predisposed to absorb the 'other'. That it took over some idea into its doctrines is not the point as much as what it made of that act. The doctrines elaborated and fleshed out a worldview. That is to say, the predisposition of Judaism, Christianity, and, at a later stage, Islam, to try to assimilate
the Greek philosophical thought has to do with the nature of religion.

Similar to the Greek philosophical thought being absorbed into Christianity is the practice of Christianity adopting the pagan festivals into the Christian church year as the Christian Holidays. The Christian festivals all corrospond to earlier pagan festivals or those of other competing religions. By placing these holidays on those significant days of the year, now instead of celibrating the Winter solstice we are celibrating Christmas. It seems to me that this practice is similar to, if not part of, the process. It has been suggested that this was a deliberate act by the church leadership, or it could also be a natural evolution where there is a festival and Christians simply wanted the join the party in their own way.
arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 »

all good points, thedoc. especially your last post. thanks for joining the discussion
arvind13
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by arvind13 »

In all this discussion i neglected to mention one important thing that ties all of this together: Balu's theory of religion. This is one of (if not) the most important themes in the book. If you understand his theory of religion, you will be able to understand the dynamic of religion i have discussed in my previous posts.

Balagangadhara's theory of religion: http://xyz4000.wordpress.com/2011/03/05 ... angadhara/


I can tell you one thing. One of the consequences of this theory is that only Christianity, Islam, and Judaism qualify as religions.

Be warned: it is an extremely complex theory to understand, and will most probably take more than one reading to fully grasp it.
Nikolai
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Nikolai »

Hi Arvind,
arvind13 wrote:Firstly, trying to understand secularization from the standpoint of individual psychology (why did Augustine do this, whereas Voltaire did that) is futile.
I agree, and I haven't been considering Augustine and Voltaire as individuals at all but rather as figureheads for their periods. Sometimes it is rhetorically useful to use names in this way, but please don't too much notice!
arvind13 wrote:Augustine lived within a religious framework, a guy like Voltaire lived within a 'secular' religious framework.
Now this is the certainly the crux of your argument, your core assumption. The trouble is, that a 'framework' has no empirical reality, it is not something we can see or measure. Whether a framework is or isn't in place is an entirely subjective judgement. Historical analysis does not reveal a framework, it is up to the historian to 'create' the framework for himself by associating events and the meaning of events; it is likewise up to the historian to deny associations within any putative framework which might be very clear and obvious to his colleague.

The author of the Heathen in his blindness tells us that there is an existing Christian framework at the time that pre-Christian secular ideas were being assimilated. In other words there was a Christian framework, and a separate secular framework. But then at the time of the enlightenment we are told that only one of these was still a framework - the Christian one. Genuinely secular thought was therefore impossible, because everything had been Christianised.

Now there is obviously very good reason why historians have considered Christian theology as we know it to have been impossible without the existence of those old heathens Socrates, Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, Epictetus. If there hadn't been good reason then this wouldn't have gained any intellectual currency for all these centuries. It is also natural therefore, that they should consider the Enlightenment as a going back to the roots.

Of course, all these historians were only doing what our present author is also doing - presenting an opinion. But it's boring! Obviously the thesis of the Heathen was always a possibility - it has been for centuries the counter-view to the accepted doctrine. By saying what something is, we acknowledge what it might also be.

I was looking for the paradigm shift as billed, but it didn't come. All I got was a somewhat iconoclastic inversion of the orthodoxy. Yawn!! The paradigm shift shall come when such terms as secular and religious are transcended altogether.

I read the link you offered on Balu's theory of religion. I got the feeling that this wasn't the most thorough exposition but it was brief and perhaps suggested the essentials.

Firstly, the reminder that the nature of the religious questions we ask depends on the religious milieu we are in was, as always, very welcome. The trouble is, Balu falls directly into his own trap.

He seems to suggest that religion is the creation of an 'explanatory intelligible account'. Because these accounts are not always developed then only some religions can truly be called religions.

It is perhaps inevitable that a religious scholar would completely miss the point of what religion is. Naturally, he should confuse religion with all the words, songs, scriptures, ceremonies and rituals that he has read about and observed. As a matter of course he has come to mistake religion with theology. Indeed, if the author had any idea of what religion really is then he probably wouldn't be spending his days writing about it.

To know God, to discover the Tao, to discover for your self within yourself the world shattering truth that you are identical with the cosmos...this is religion. This is what the religious person recognises within themselves, and nothing less then the personal relation with the divine would satisfactorily account for their religion.

If you haven't experienced it for yourself you must believe that you might. If you neither know it directly, nor believe in its possibility then you are in no position to be formulating theories of religion. Any attempts are absolutely guaranteed to miss the point. Religion cannot be studied, nor read about, nor observed. It must be practised with devotion and intent. Only success qualifies a person for discussing it.

Only success can allow the person to transcend the paltry exchange of opinions that is the province of mere scholars. I get the terrible feeling that Balu's scholarship has absolutely nothing to do with his own chosen subject. But he is probably the last person to realise this, if he did ever realise what religion really is he would like Aquinas realise that all his writing is 'as worthless as straw'.
thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

Those who know, don't say. Those who say, don't know. :)
thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

Years ago I read that all are enlightened but just don't know it, so I decided that since I was already enlightened I would skip the hard work and play with my grandchildren.
Gee
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Gee »

Hi everyone;

I was just skimming this thread and found the statements regarding secularization interesting, so I thought that I would relate a conversation that I had in another forum about law.

We were discussing how the "old common law" of England was brought to the US as a base for our law, and specifically about the requirements of witnesses and a body to prosecute a murder. For anyone who does not know, "common law" is best described as moral law and is what was commonly accepted. I told my friend that I was surprised to discover, that after studying law, I found the requirements of witnesses and a body in the Old Testament of the Bible, so I supposed that it was the root of the "common law" requirements.

My friend denied this and stated that these requirements were originally part of England's law, and were added back in to the law in the 17th century. My Black's Law Dictionary concurred that "common law" is secular law and has nothing to do with religion.

But, my friend could produce nothing that verified that this law existed in England prior to the 17th century, and it must be noted that the King James Bible was written in the 17th century. A lot of coincidence to my way of thinking. Is there any evidence that these requirements were law prior to being "added back in" to the law? It makes one wonder.

Gee
thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

Hello Gee, I was in a conversation a week or so ago with a person who stated that there is no law that is not included in the 10 comandments in some form. If you can think of any law on the books, apart from obvious technological details, let me know.

Something I just remembered, when Jesus sent the diciples out to teach, it was in pairs, because in legal terms there was, and is, a requirement of 2 witnesses to make a case. Just something your comment about witness sparked in my memory, so even that is Biblical, since it was part of the Jewish law, and propably preceded the Bible in other traditions.
Gee
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Gee »

thedoc wrote:Hello Gee, I was in a conversation a week or so ago with a person who stated that there is no law that is not included in the 10 commandments in some form. If you can think of any law on the books, apart from obvious technological details, let me know.
Thedoc;

Please note that I am not a lawyer, I studied law to be a paralegal and worked as a paralegal and legal secretary. But I think that I can help you in this as I do not agree with your friend.

First, there is Constitutional law, Legislated law, and Case law.

It would be difficult to trace Constitutional law to the 10 Commandments. From what I understand, the structure is based on Roman law, but there are other influences. Some even claim that ideas in our Constitutional law were influenced by American Indians.

Legislated law can be anything from a City Ordinance to State and Federal law, so a lot of that is irrelevant to the 10 Commandments and even to the Bible. I doubt that anyone could trace the laws on emission controls on vehicles to the Bible. Or how about walking across the street against the traffic light. Or laws regarding which side of the road to drive on. Or laws that regulate fire codes in public buildings. Or laws that require our children to be in school. The list is endless.

Regarding Case law, the accumulation of rendered judgments, a lot of this could be found as rooted in the Bible--but not all in the 10 Commandments. Criminal, Property, Torte, Probate, and Family Law would all have roots in the Books of Law in the Bible. But once you branch off to things like Juvenile Law there is no reference. Civil Procedure is so fraught with rules and regulations (laws) that it has convinced many a young law student to change career paths--and this is irrelevant to the 10 Commandments.

I suspect that your friend was considering Common Law, which is our moral law, is heavily rooted in the Bible, and is incorporated in our Case Law. If you want to find a law in this category that is not derived from the Bible, then just look for a moral law that is unresolvable. Abortion and the Right to Die come quickly to mind, but I am sure there are more.

Hope this helps.

Gee
thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

Gee wrote:
thedoc wrote:Hello Gee, I was in a conversation a week or so ago with a person who stated that there is no law that is not included in the 10 commandments in some form. If you can think of any law on the books, apart from obvious technological details, let me know.
Thedoc;

Please note that I am not a lawyer, I studied law to be a paralegal and worked as a paralegal and legal secretary. But I think that I can help you in this as I do not agree with your friend.

First, there is Constitutional law, Legislated law, and Case law.

It would be difficult to trace Constitutional law to the 10 Commandments. From what I understand, the structure is based on Roman law, but there are other influences. Some even claim that ideas in our Constitutional law were influenced by American Indians.

Legislated law can be anything from a City Ordinance to State and Federal law, so a lot of that is irrelevant to the 10 Commandments and even to the Bible. I doubt that anyone could trace the laws on emission controls on vehicles to the Bible. Or how about walking across the street against the traffic light. Or laws regarding which side of the road to drive on. Or laws that regulate fire codes in public buildings. Or laws that require our children to be in school. The list is endless.

Regarding Case law, the accumulation of rendered judgments, a lot of this could be found as rooted in the Bible--but not all in the 10 Commandments. Criminal, Property, Torte, Probate, and Family Law would all have roots in the Books of Law in the Bible. But once you branch off to things like Juvenile Law there is no reference. Civil Procedure is so fraught with rules and regulations (laws) that it has convinced many a young law student to change career paths--and this is irrelevant to the 10 Commandments.

I suspect that your friend was considering Common Law, which is our moral law, is heavily rooted in the Bible, and is incorporated in our Case Law. If you want to find a law in this category that is not derived from the Bible, then just look for a moral law that is unresolvable. Abortion and the Right to Die come quickly to mind, but I am sure there are more.

Hope this helps.

Gee

Thankyou, I will only focus on one point for now and that is what I bolded in your quote, and as far as being relavent to the 10 comandments I would offer this quote and the summation by Jesus of the 10 comandments

The 10 Commandments - Christ's Summation in the New Testament
About 1,400 years later, the 10 Commandments were summed up in the New Testament at Matthew 22, when Jesus was confronted by the religious "experts" of the day:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36-40).

A reflective reading of Christ's teaching reveals that the first four commandments given to the children of Israel are contained in the statement: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." It continues that the last six commandments are enclosed in the statement: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

His summation could easily be construed into public safety issues and preservation of the environment. By careing for the safety of our neighbors and careing for the environment shared with our neighbors we are demonstrating our love for our neighbors. And this is a basic religious principle that if we believe these teachings, then we will live by these teachings. One of the biggest, and most often valid, criticism of Christians is that they profess the teachings on Sunday and then live otherwise the rest of the week, but this is not the intention of the original teachings.
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