Saturday, October 29, 2011

HUMILITY, SO EASILY LOST... December 20, 2010..note to Edward Fudge

Hi Edward. You are surely touching on important themes that the Christian texts support. But is it fair to claim the virtues Paul lists as superior in all respects to what others also teach, either before or since? To think Christian texts are the most superior teaching on all matters of ethics and morality is an irrational and a less than humble attitude to have about ones own religious history and perspective. You discredit Greek thought for example by implying they did not recognize and teach the importance of humility, that humility was looked on with 'embarrassment and contempt.' This is just not so. In a blog type non-technical  page of a couple on the subject of Manliness at: the writers have a very solid  essay on humility. They begin  by emphasizing and giving a very good detailed example in Greek myth on the importance of humility. They begin: 
Our popular image of manliness usually consists of a man with a cocky swagger, a rebel who blazes his own path and stands confident and ready to take on the world. “Humility” doesn’t seem to fit into this image. Humility oftentimes conjures up images of weakness, submissiveness, and fear. But this is a false idea of humility. Real humility is a sign of strength, authentic confidence, and courage. It is the mark of a true man.

The Hubris of Achilles

The ancient Greeks often wrote about the importance of humility. A reoccurring theme throughout their literature was the shameful, often fatal effects of hubris-excessive, arrogant pride. For the Greeks, hubris meant thinking you were wise when you were not. One story that drives home the importance of manly humility is Homer’s The Iliad.....the whole article:
Achilles- Hubris Was Considered A Crime In Ancient Athens
 Why do you think  many Christian writers tend to understate  the moral and ethical accomplishments of cultures and religions compared to Christianity?  Is this not often an occasion that shows lack of humility, by boasting of one's own group as  knowing and doing it better than others? One can have great caring pride in the uniqueness  and specialness of their own clan, family or religion but when they do not see that others carry EXACTLY the same appreciation of theirs, they lack essential humility. Humility involves seeing ourselves and others(who are different)  as being  co-gifted  by God in various ways as part of the really large picture of humanity's search for truth and virtue. Sometimes Paul has an insight that adds to what the Greeks generally  said but no doubt there is much in Greek philosophy and religion that adds to  and surpasses what Paul, in some instances, has to say. This attitude that is not uncommon among Christians(and others) is not an example of humility. Boasting superiority is always an act lacking humility. Humility involves being a team player in the really big game of life and human development and spiritual progress. I would venture to say that is how Jesus felt about himself compared to others and what they also contributed to him and to his life.  Most of the 'we-them' mentality of Christianity cannot be laid at the feet of Jesus but by those who quickly followed. Many others have given us just as excellent insights, and in some instances superior,  about the 'Minding The Gap between our present level of development and the goal to which God has called us.'  To be able to confidently accept that and praise God for it seems to be part of  humility, whether  it is seen in  the human mind/life of Aristotle, Jesus of Nazareth or in the timeless symbol of 'The Christ.' Blessings, Jim
Addendum:  A relative new area of knowledge regarding our Christian heritage has emerged. Beginning in the early centuries of Christian history many of the original views and interpretations of Jesus by Christians were labeled heresy by the commanding powers of developing  church authority. This resulted in many writings, some of them as old as the canonical gospels, being condemned and burned. The Nag Hammadi Library of early centuries  Christian and Gnostic writings was discovered in Egypt in 1945. Only in the last fifteen  years have these become available for the public to read and study. Hopefully Christian's today will not have the same lack of humility our forebears did in claiming a  superiority over the  books that had been humanly named  by the Church as the 'Only Word of God.'  There is much being learned about the nature of early Christianity from such discoveries. Such learning requires a good measure of humility--- to let voices speak that were once hushed by a superior attitude that lacked humility. A good place to begin seeing what these books have to say are in the writings of Christian scholar of religion  Elaine Pagles.  One of her books Beyond Belief is a study of the Gospel of Thomas believed to have been written about the same time as some of our canonical gospels in the New Testament

On Wed, 29 Dec 2010 19:17:16 -0500 "Edward Fudge" <> writes:

Edward Fudge

Click here to view any of 1100 past gracEmails on 100 popular topics.

In 1992, Sara Faye and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to England. We still chuckle about a recording on the London "Tube" or "Underground" (subway) that admonished at each stop, "Mind the gap!" The voice was telling us to pay attention to the short empty space between the train and the platform, across which we had to step as we exited. "Mind"--a word of many uses. You have a mind that reminds you to mind authorities, to mind your business, and sometime not to mind irritations and slights real or imagined. The proper use of the mind (as well as the body) involves what have long been called the virtues. But it all begins with the mind, for the mind controls the body.
In New Testament times, philosophers, students and tradesmen alike discussed the virtues, defined by moderation and the absence of either excess or deficiency. This was part of the common conversation on the streets of Philippi. Little wonder that when Paul writes Philippian believers a letter, he says much about mindsets and outlooks, thought patterns, attitudes and frames of mind. Read through that short, four-chapter epistle sometime and mark every use of the words "mind," "-minded," "think," "attitude, and "purpose." In nearly every case, the original noun, verb, or adjective that those words translate stems from a single Greek root, "phron," referring to the mind. Summing it up, Paul encourages his friends to fill their minds with whatever is true, honorable, just and pure, reputable, excellent and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). Several of those words name standard Greco-Roman virtues.
Paul's language of Koine Greek was a legacy of Alexander the Great, a populist descendant of the classicists, put to good use every day by first-century philosophers. But Paul's message was not the same as the philosophers', any more than it was the message of the Jewish rabbis, although Paul's writings contain clear signs of influence by both. The goal is not the Golden Mean of a balanced life, but life lived well to the praise of God and of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:14-16). For Paul the virtues became incarnate in Jesus (Phil. 2:5). But Jesus redefines the virtues, which still include such traits as truth, justice and beauty, but for the believer also include traits previously viewed with embarrassment or contempt, such as lowliness and humility. Now modeled by Jesus, these traits are commended in other believers and are to be imitated by all (Phil. 2:6-8; 2:19-22; 2:1-5).
Philippi was an imperial outpost--a showcase city designed to model the superior civilization of Rome. Paul borrows and applies that thought also for gospel purposes. Believers are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), he says, who model that lifestyle before fellow-residents in this dark and twisted world (Phil. 2:15). Spiritually speaking, Paul reminds us to "mind the gap"--this time, the gap between our present level of development and the goal to which God has called us in Christ (Phil. 3:12-16).
Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce and/or retransmit without financial profit and with credit given.

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