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Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 09 Jun 2010, 19:53

Hi Nerd

Just wondering if you ever read Herman Dooyeweerds Roots of Western Culture which tackles this theme. A summary of some of his ideas can be found here http://www.dooy.salford.ac.uk/ground.motives.html Also interesting is Rodney Starkey's For the Glory of God. Lewis assumes that his negative attitude towards dissection is Christian but the historical evidence which Starkey brings shows that it was because of the influence of Christianity that this essentially pagan taboo was overcome and modern medicine was able to advance.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby rusmeister » 10 Jun 2010, 02:41

Nerd42 wrote:It was mentioned that Lewis admired the medieval Christian/pagan synthesis. I don't, because often (historically) the pagan ideas influenced the Christian ideas rather than the other way around. But I admire how Lewis is able to bring analogies out of man's mythology to explain Christian concepts.


Your statement here is one that requires a basis. While I think there is truth in it, it rings too loudly of untested assumptions.

It is probably also easy to disdain the medieval era if one has a modern education and is thus little read on medieval authors (besides Chaucer). Our public schools (and a lot of what we get from the media) teach us to sneer at the past and see ourselves as better, more knowing and wiser than they were - especially towards the so-called Dark and Middle Ages, which represent an era antithetical to the English-speaking world as it developed historically, primarily because of Protestantism, and now even more so in post-Christian society. Our reactions to many words and terms have been pre-programmed and we react on hearing them without thinking, and have been given a scanty and censored view of history and literature, but just enough to make us think we know "what happened" and "what things were like". My real education began when I was 38, and began really reading Lewis - and later Chesterton, Belloc, etc - and acquired a strong admiration for my ancestors and a corresponding reduction in trust for what I and my contemporaries have been taught via schooling (formal education) and the media.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby cyranorox » 10 Jun 2010, 15:06

Pagan influences and ideas? Not really. Christianity was intended and empowered to adopt and transform the world, not to reinvent the wheel. Christ did not propose a new receipe for bread when it became His body; we did not find out new times to have holidays or forget the shape of the year. We weren't supposed to. The worst of the Pagan ideas imho is penal substitutionary atonement, from German Pagan ideas of crime, rank and jurisprudence.

Moreover, with the exception of the example above, the adoptions and transformations were conscious, reasoned, and complete, ie, the Church fully transformed the being and identity of the thing adopted, as the bread is fully transformed. Christmas really 'is' a Christian holiday, with a pagan ancestry or substrate.

Lewis understood this. Plato could be adopted because Plato was part of the prepartio evangelici, as the Latins have it - the bread of human thought and wisdom.Lewis was by his own admission a converted Pagan, a most honorable thing to be, and among apostate Puritans, a species not endangered today. The Puritans, apostate or not, generally are unable to perceive the 'fit' of the best Pagan ideas to Christianity, as Lewis did. I myself find I am more at ease, more in harmony [though in disagreement] with Pagans than Frankish Puritans.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby rusmeister » 10 Jun 2010, 16:00

What she said.

I have to go offline for a while- wanted to give JRose's big and thoughtful post a worthy response - it'll have to wait a couple of weeks... My apologies!
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 10 Jun 2010, 22:56

It is probably also easy to disdain the medieval era if one has a modern education and is thus little read on medieval authors (besides Chaucer). Our public schools (and a lot of what we get from the media) teach us to sneer at the past and see ourselves as better, more knowing and wiser than they were - especially towards the so-called Dark and Middle Ages, which represent an era antithetical to the English-speaking world as it developed historically, primarily because of Protestantism, and now even more so in post-Christian society. Our reactions to many words and terms have been pre-programmed and we react on hearing them without thinking, and have been given a scanty and censored view of history and literature, but just enough to make us think we know "what happened" and "what things were like". My real education began when I was 38, and began really reading Lewis - and later Chesterton, Belloc, etc - and acquired a strong admiration for my ancestors and a corresponding reduction in trust for what I and my contemporaries have been taught via schooling (formal education) and the media.

This is a bit glib. It suggests that anyone who sees flaws in the medieval synthesis must be doing so out of ignorance or something not far from brainwashing. Well I was educated at a state school and I went on to do medieval literature as part of my degree and also studied popular literature which included translations of some slightly less well known medieval writing. I had to do historical background on that as well which included some of Lewis's writing. I'm not an expert but I'm not completely ignorant. I think there is a case to answer namely that as Dooyeweerd argues the medieval synthesis of nature and grace is only a partial Christianisation of the ancient form/matter dualism.
Cyranorox said:
Pagan influences and ideas? Not really. Christianity was intended and empowered to adopt and transform the world, not to reinvent the wheel. Christ did not propose a new receipe for bread when it became His body; we did not find out new times to have holidays or forget the shape of the year. We weren't supposed to. The worst of the Pagan ideas imho is penal substitutionary atonement, from German Pagan ideas of crime, rank and jurisprudence.

Well based on the writings of Paul which are influenced by Hebrew and to a lesser extent Roman ideas of justice. I think you're conflating Anselm and Calvin a bit. Yes I accept the idea of Christianity as a revolutionary force but I really do think we have to be clear at the level of ground motives and the medieval ideas are dualistic. So you get the realms of nature and Grace separating and a down valuing of nature. You get the idea that secular pursuits are lower than religious i.e. monastic ones so that when Luther makes the very reasonable claim that a cobbler who makes a good pair of shoes serves God as well as a monk in a monastery it seems revolutionary
Moreover, with the exception of the example above, the adoptions and transformations were conscious, reasoned, and complete, ie, the Church fully transformed the being and identity of the thing adopted, as the bread is fully transformed. Christmas really 'is' a Christian holiday, with a pagan ancestry or substrate.

Actually that's a fairly trivial example but sadly we no longer celebrate the traditional medieval Christmas; at least we don't in the west. I would love it to have advent as a time of fasting and then twelve days to celebrate but most of us act as if Christmas ended on the Feast of Stephen and most of us are back at work long before twelthmas - sad really. I do hope you are not falling for the old myth that the puritans tried to ban Christmas. They were concerned at some of the extreme celebrations and wanted to make Christmas a holy day and so proposed postponing some of the revelry until new year. What Christmas has become for most of us Niaturbians is a consumer fest and it is once again in need of redemption.
Lewis understood this. Plato could be adopted because Plato was part of the prepartio evangelici, as the Latins have it - the bread of human thought and wisdom.Lewis was by his own admission a converted Pagan, a most honorable thing to be, and among apostate Puritans, a species not endangered today. The Puritans, apostate or not, generally are unable to perceive the 'fit' of the best Pagan ideas to Christianity, as Lewis did. I myself find I am more at ease, more in harmony [though in disagreement] with Pagans than Frankish Puritans.

Well Plato is highly ambivalent he can as easily be seen as a forerunner of fascism as Christianity (Popper's argument). I'm not persuaded by your best fit argument. You cannot seriously argue that say Calvin or Milton or Marvell were unable to find things of value in Paganism. So it is a question of what we can redeem and how we redeem it. In many ways I think the Reformed and Orthodox views have significant commonalities. However I have sometimes got the feeling that although many Orthodox talk about the redemption of all creation they do not see this as something that can have any real bearing on this world now but as a future hope. Hence Orthodox Christians have told me political structures cannot be redeemed only individuals - which sounds very like Protestant Fundamentalism. You seem to be an exception and so is my friend Xara; is that so or have I been talking to the wrong Orthodox Christians.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby cyranorox » 14 Jun 2010, 20:25

Yes, I was referring to the trend of thought that includes Anselm and then Calvin. the 'realms of nature and Grace' is really Frankish, though perhaps an OC exanple could be found; cariti, grace, is not a thing, creation or 'item', but a quality: graciousness, loving-kindness. in Frankish thought it seems to be a substance but not a person; or a fluid but not a being; or Divine but not God himself; or a package that has a quantity;or even an object that you may trample, related to a stumbling block? - none of which makes any sense to me, and is probably not the intent but the inadvertency of the writers.

We do keep Advent, though I make no boast of what little fasting i do. We do keep the 12 days though the world does not. I used the image of Christmas as an obvious one, and I'm not sure why you think it trivial; what would be a more substantial one in your opinion?

as for "the old myth that the puritans tried to ban Christmas. " - cite your sources. Beyond a quibble on the meaning of banning, I seem to recall that Christmas celebrations were banned by Cromwell and more than one colonial government. Of course you can't ban the date - you can't ban the 4th of July- it's on the calendar - but if you ban fireworks, flags, bands, parades and picnics, not much is left.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 24 Jun 2010, 20:19

Cyranorox said
as for "the old myth that the puritans tried to ban Christmas. " - cite your sources. Beyond a quibble on the meaning of banning, I seem to recall that Christmas celebrations were banned by Cromwell and more than one colonial government. Of course you can't ban the date - you can't ban the 4th of July- it's on the calendar - but if you ban fireworks, flags, bands, parades and picnics, not much is left.

Point conceded. Although it was not actually Cromwell who banned celebrations and we only guess what he thought of the matter. The puritans did want to keep Christmas as a holy day but the Puritans idea of a holy day would not be much like anyone else's idea of Christmas especially when Christmas fell on the monthly fast day which it did on one occasion. But if the essence of Christmas or Christstide is to commemorate Christ's birth then I am nominally correct but only by the skin of my teeth.
Yes, I was referring to the trend of thought that includes Anselm and then Calvin. the 'realms of nature and Grace' is really Frankish, though perhaps an OC exanple could be found; cariti, grace, is not a thing, creation or 'item', but a quality: graciousness, loving-kindness. in Frankish thought it seems to be a substance but not a person; or a fluid but not a being; or Divine but not God himself; or a package that has a quantity;or even an object that you may trample, related to a stumbling block? - none of which makes any sense to me, and is probably not the intent but the inadvertency of the writers.

Anselm and Calvin have quite different understandings. Where Anselm talks of God needing to preserve his honour Calvin and modern evangelicals follow Paul in talking of God's justice being satisfied. Calvin talks not only of Christ dying to appease God's wrath but living the life we could not live - what Irenaeus another Frankish theologian calls recapitulation. Luther makes use of the concept of nature and grace but you will not really find it in Calvin or the Reformed tradition. In so far as both Reformed and Orthodox though talk of creation, fall into sin and redemption rather than nature and grace they are on the same lines. You will even find Calvin affirming the doctrine of theosis. And certainly protestants think of grace in much more personal terms than medieval Catholics - the best evangelical writer on this would be Gerald Bray who is one of the few evangelicals to thoroughly study the Church Fathers.
I used the image of Christmas as an obvious one, and I'm not sure why you think it trivial; what would be a more substantial one in your opinion?

Again point conceded. It is a good paradigm of redemption. But what might it mean to redeem an idea like say democracy?
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby rusmeister » 27 Jun 2010, 14:21

postodave wrote:
It is probably also easy to disdain the medieval era if one has a modern education and is thus little read on medieval authors (besides Chaucer). Our public schools (and a lot of what we get from the media) teach us to sneer at the past and see ourselves as better, more knowing and wiser than they were - especially towards the so-called Dark and Middle Ages, which represent an era antithetical to the English-speaking world as it developed historically, primarily because of Protestantism, and now even more so in post-Christian society. Our reactions to many words and terms have been pre-programmed and we react on hearing them without thinking, and have been given a scanty and censored view of history and literature, but just enough to make us think we know "what happened" and "what things were like". My real education began when I was 38, and began really reading Lewis - and later Chesterton, Belloc, etc - and acquired a strong admiration for my ancestors and a corresponding reduction in trust for what I and my contemporaries have been taught via schooling (formal education) and the media.

This is a bit glib. It suggests that anyone who sees flaws in the medieval synthesis must be doing so out of ignorance or something not far from brainwashing. Well I was educated at a state school and I went on to do medieval literature as part of my degree and also studied popular literature which included translations of some slightly less well known medieval writing. I had to do historical background on that as well which included some of Lewis's writing. I'm not an expert but I'm not completely ignorant. I think there is a case to answer namely that as Dooyeweerd argues the medieval synthesis of nature and grace is only a partial Christianisation of the ancient form/matter dualism.


Hi, PoD,
I’m not trying to be glib in any but a positive sense, or to make sweeping universal generalizations. Granted there are always exceptions. But the rule for the overwhelming majority of the populace is as I stated it. The state schools do NOT teach the knowledge that specialist schools or college degree programs require, and what little IS taught – and it IS little, regarding the role of religion in history – develops the overall impression that I described and the general attitude that we see everywhere around us (if you’re not cloistered in a seminary).

But you must admit that to be Protestant – even an educated Protestant – is to reject much of medieval thought and teaching, although it is because of basic worldview assumptions that generally refuse to seriously consider them; that reject them out-of-hand. (Orthodox thinking rejects that which diverges from Orthodoxy in a similar manner. Dooyeweerd would cease to interest me as soon as he departs from what I hold to be the truth of Orthodoxy.)

The main point I would try to make is that certain attitudes are inculcated into the individual in his education that he rarely challenges. It is the rare exception which consciously thinks through and adopts the position that he holds.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 27 Jun 2010, 19:18

Hi Rus
I don't think it works like that. Protestantism does carry forward a lot of medieval ideas. Luther rejects Aquinas but follows Occam. Calvin adapts Anselm. Dooyeweerd adopts the medieval concept of an aevum and so on. Maybe there is something which you feel is at the heart of medieval thinking both Eastern and Western which is missed out by modern thought and maybe you are right. But I don't think people reject this whatever it is necessarily out of ignorance or laziness and I don't think Protestantism was some kind of new version of Christianity that came up with ideas that had never been heard of before.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby rusmeister » 28 Jun 2010, 03:55

postodave wrote:Hi Rus
I don't think it works like that. Protestantism does carry forward a lot of medieval ideas. Luther rejects Aquinas but follows Occam. Calvin adapts Anselm. Dooyeweerd adopts the medieval concept of an aevum and so on. Maybe there is something which you feel is at the heart of medieval thinking both Eastern and Western which is missed out by modern thought and maybe you are right. But I don't think people reject this whatever it is necessarily out of ignorance or laziness and I don't think Protestantism was some kind of new version of Christianity that came up with ideas that had never been heard of before.

Thanks!
I wouldn't try to say, though, that Protestantism doesn't carry forward a lot of medieval ideas. I'd say it rejects the central medieval idea that you accept the faith whole hog, that you not carry forward only what appeals to you or seems to fit with what you feel to be good or like - that faith is not up to the individual to determine (although that was certainly not what was originally intended, that's how it has generally worked out). That's the only basis on which you can even use the term "Protestant" as a unifying concept. The idea of rejecting the Church altogether as an authoritative body that interprets Scripture and other Tradition did indeed develop as a new idea that, while perhaps it had been 'heard of' before, had certainly never gained a foothold. (Although you know that I believe the catholic Church had already gone wrong, and that the well-meaning "Reformers" simply went even more wrong in attempting to go right.)

But neither would I defend medievalism as such. So yes, you are right on how I see medieval thinking. But while I DO suggest ignorance on the part of most people (and how could they help it when that is what they get when they are "taught" history in school?) I do not suggest laziness.

Orthodox theologians are (theoretically like Catholic and unlike Protestant theologians) bound to accept the interpretations of a specific Church and are not free to reject certain interpretations and develop their own.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 28 Jun 2010, 22:46

Russ said
I'd say it rejects the central medieval idea that you accept the faith whole hog, that you not carry forward only what appeals to you or seems to fit with what you feel to be good or like - that faith is not up to the individual to determine (although that was certainly not what was originally intended, that's how it has generally worked out).

No, not really. Most evangelicals would say they believe what they believe because it is taught in scripture not because they have picked the bits they like. The problem with the comparing the role of the individual in modern and medieval times is that the concept of the individual did not really emerge until quite late in the medieval era (usually people including Lewis I think reckon about the twelfth century but even then not fully developed and some would say this does not really happen until centuries later)
That's the only basis on which you can even use the term "Protestant" as a unifying concept. The idea of rejecting the Church altogether as an authoritative body that interprets Scripture and other Tradition did indeed develop as a new idea that, while perhaps it had been 'heard of' before, had certainly never gained a foothold

Protestants did not do this. This kind of idea may have emerged in the US in the late 19th and 20th century and it may have emerged in Protestant circles but to see this as the essence of Protestantism is a historical mistake. In fact it is arguable that the Protestant understanding of the relationship between scripture, Church and tradition justis that held by the earliest Christians. It is not at all obvious that the Fathers in the first three centuries believed what either Orthodox or Catholics believe today.
But neither would I defend medievalism as such. So yes, you are right on how I see medieval thinking. But while I DO suggest ignorance on the part of most people (and how could they help it when that is what they get when they are "taught" history in school?) I do not suggest laziness.

I don't know what happens in the US or Russia but here in the UK children at the age of about 10 or 11 are taught about the problem of authority in medieval politics. They are usually taught using Thomas Beckett as a kind of paradigm case and they are encouraged to look at both Beckett and the king's perspective as well as that of the onlookers. What they are not told is and this is what the medieval Church said and everyone agreed because that is not true. Thought about how different authorities in society relate together has continued in Protestantism and from reading people like Berdyayev and Men I would say in Orthodoxy too. so as you say we can't go back. The idea of an authoritative Church in the modern world just cannot be the same as that idea in the medieval world.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby cyranorox » 30 Jun 2010, 20:30

P-Dave, re
"Where Anselm talks of God needing to preserve his honour Calvin and modern evangelicals follow Paul in talking of God's justice being satisfied. Calvin talks ...of Christ dying to appease God's wrath... "

From here, these are closely related and similarly different from OC; though we do use these metaphors, we don't build on them in the same ways, nor do we consider them the primary way of thinking about the Incarnation. They are not facts in the same sense that the clauses of the Creed are facts. God has no needs, no need to preserve his 'honor' , and no jeopardies; God cannot be, and cannot need to be, appeased. While we don't quite say these images are completely wrong, as images, we do say that Christ took on our nature to save us, and died to trample down death by death, and to enact in time the sacrifice made before the beginning of the world.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 01 Jul 2010, 18:38

Cyranorox said:
From here, these are closely related and similarly different from OC; though we do use these metaphors, we don't build on them in the same ways, nor do we consider them the primary way of thinking about the Incarnation. They are not facts in the same sense that the clauses of the Creed are facts. God has no needs, no need to preserve his 'honor' , and no jeopardies; God cannot be, and cannot need to be, appeased. While we don't quite say these images are completely wrong, as images, we do say that Christ took on our nature to save us, and died to trample down death by death, and to enact in time the sacrifice made before the beginning of the world.

I suspect the word need is being used in two different senses. If I say God needs to act in a way that is consistent with his promises I am not implying that this is like a psychological need as it might be for a human being but rather that this is part of what it means for God to be a covenant keeper. The problem with saying God cannot need to be appeased is that scripture clearly does use this language - now it may be that this language has been misunderstood by Calvin or Anselm, but then I think I would want to know if people have misunderstood Paul then what did Paul really mean in using this language. At present there are many Protestants who feel that Luther in particular may have misunderstood Paul. For example where Paul has been translated as saying we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ (a key text for Luther) Paul may really have said we are justified by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, that is by Christ's work not ours. At any rate if one is to be true to scripture one has to make something of this language of justification and the talk of expiation or propitiation. I have never felt that the Orthodox Church offers an alternative understanding of these things rather that it has focussed on different aspects of Christ's work. So the description of Christ's work you give is not one Protestants would reject but something they would see as part of a bigger picture. Maybe we have become a bit imbalanced - Orthodox Christians are outraged by Luther saying sanctification is like snow on a dunghill as if Christ cares nothing for what is within and only for balancing the books so as to let God off the hook for saving people who didn't deserve it! However I have always been intrigued by the high praise Berdyayev gave to Luther's Bondage of the Will as if for all his own emphasis on freedom he saw something of true value in Luther's denial of it. Maybe as Alexander Men suggests there is a total picture here which no set of Christians has grasped in total but into which many have partial insight.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby cyranorox » 02 Jul 2010, 15:22

P-dave -
If I say God needs to act in a way that is consistent with his promises I am not implying that this is like a psychological need
is still metaphor- here 'needs' is an image of a lack or gap to be filled or supplied. Actually, as i'm sure you agree, the fulfillment is unseparated from the promise in this way.

where Paul has been translated as saying we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ (a key text for Luther) Paul may really have said we are justified by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, that is by Christ's work not ours.
- sounds like you've been reading NTWright. Another good source re Paul and misunderstandings Paul Among the People, a classicist's view of the unstated context necessary to correctly derive the meaning.

At any rate if one is to be true to scripture one has to make something of this language of justification and the talk of expiation or propitiation.
- point conceded. The mode of resolution for us is seen in Origen, the Uncle of the Church [my innovation- he's not quite a Father]- you must reject any interpretation that is inconsistent with the highest and noblest understanding of God; where there are passages that would seem to show God as angry, injust, passionate, etc, you must treat them as images, hyperbole [and Paul uses plenty of obvious hyperbole], etc, not to be taken literally. Since the basic data is never the text but the tradition from which it arose, you may and must sail very close to the wind, "in the wind's eye", to understand some passages.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 03 Jul 2010, 12:16

is still metaphor- here 'needs' is an image of a lack or gap to be filled or supplied. Actually, as i'm sure you agree, the fulfillment is unseparated from the promise in this way.

I don't think need has to refer to a lack. For example if I said the sum of two positive numbers needs to be higher than either of the numbers individually then you might say I am really saying the number lacks the property of being smaller but that would be forced. If we talk of God needing to do something I think the need is more of this kind, a need to balance the picture. You find this when Athanasius talks about the incarnation as a solution to God's dilemma. Athanasius is about as clear as anyone on God's non-temporality so he knows God didn't have to cast around for a solution. As you say it's a mode of speech. I think when we talk about God needing to act justly we are talking in that way; we could simply say God does act justly and when we cannot see that what God has done is just we may still take it on trust. What theories of atonement are doing is trying to explain why God's actions are just.
- sounds like you've been reading NTWright. Another good source re Paul and misunderstandings Paul Among the People, a classicist's view of the unstated context necessary to correctly derive the meaning.

I have and I was thinking of Wright but this particular example comes from a Jewish writer called David Stern. Wright translates those passages slightly differently. Who wrote Paul Among the People?
The mode of resolution for us is seen in Origen, the Uncle of the Church [my innovation- he's not quite a Father]- you must reject any interpretation that is inconsistent with the highest and noblest understanding of God; where there are passages that would seem to show God as angry, injust, passionate, etc, you must treat them as images, hyperbole [and Paul uses plenty of obvious hyperbole], etc, not to be taken literally. Since the basic data is never the text but the tradition from which it arose, you may and must sail very close to the wind, "in the wind's eye", to understand some passages.

The trouble with Origin it seems to me is that he is so caught up in middle platonism that he often cannot see what the NT is saying because it is so culturally alien to him. I'm not denying his massive contribution to Christian thought but I don't think he was always a good influence on the Church. In the Arian controversy he was quoted by both sides and it has even been argued that the later forms of Arianism were really Originism. I agree about hyperbole. Whole schools of Christian thought have probably been set in train because some piece of typically Jewish hyperbole is taken literally. The problem with the idea of a highest and noblest image of God is that concepts of highest and noblest tend to be culturally relative. So for Anselm it would make sense to see the noblest as having like all the nobles of his day a strong sense of honour. In our democratic day we are less impressed by raw power and theologians in all traditions (you can find this in Hinduism, Judaism and Islam as well as Christianity) have felt the need for a more kenotic concept of God. Lewis is interesting on this. He says that in imagining what God is like we are in the position of a dog trying to imagine life as a human. He may understand experimental science using an analogy with ratting - that is he will not really get it at all. However he if he is a particularly pious dog he may conclude that the idea that a creature as noble as his human master could really do anything as gross as eating and drinking is absurd and here he will be wrong (I can't think why Lewis uses this example because the dog will have seen it's master eat but you get the idea.)
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