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Sunday, April 19, 1998

The critical faith of Doubting Thomas.

Adapted from a sermon delivered to the First Parish in Concord, Mass., April 19, 1998, for the 1998 Harvard Divinity School Billings Prize preaching competition.

One of the twelve, Thomas, . . . was not with the rest when Jesus came. So the disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." He said, "Unless I see the mark of the nails on his hands, unless I put my finger into the place where the nails were, and my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

—John 20: 24–25 (New English Bible)

Let us consider the story of Doubting Thomas. Where was he, that Sunday night? Had he not heard what the story says the other disciples had heard, these rumors about an empty tomb? Why wasn't he with his friends to share their grief in those first days after the crucifixion? Surely he was terrified. Where was he hiding? How did he bear the thought of the horrible things that had just happened? What would you have done?

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Posted by Philocrites, April 19, 1998, at 11:00 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 13, 1998

The object of religion.

Christianity suffers at times from the unknowability of its God. When God's transcendence and otherness seem to separate the divine completely from the concerns of people in the world, they are likely to sympathize with Alexander Pope:

Know then thyself! Presume not God to scan
The proper study of mankind is man.

G.W.F. Hegel and Ludwig Feuerbach address the problem of God's unknowability by revising basic conceptions of religious knowledge — turning their attention, in other words, to the study of the human capacity for knowledge. Hegel introduces a dialectical method that treats consciousness as an aspect of Spirit, effectively making human life and the world manifestations of the divine mind. Not only is God knowable, Hegel argues, but all forms of human knowledge must be understood in theological terms. Dialectical analysis of the manifestation of Spirit (involving the objectification and subjectification of Spirit) preserves the knowability of God and explains consciousness. Feuerbach adapts Hegel's approach in a radical way, arguing that the dialectical method by which the mind comes to recognize God is incomplete if it does not eventually recognize that all the attributes of God are in fact objectifications of attributes which belong to the human species. Feuerbach transforms Hegel's Geist into a generalized human species-nature, transforming the union of consciousness with Spirit into the union of individual consciousness with species consciousness.

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Posted by Philocrites, April 13, 1998, at 05:00 PM

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