Christian Theological/Philosophical Book Club discussion

If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty
This topic is about If You Can Keep It
35 views
The Forum - Debate Religion > Does Religion Have a Positive Role to Play in Society?

Comments Showing 1-40 of 40 (40 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by John (new) - added it

John Gravino | 15 comments John Gravino See video presentation of this important and timely topic at my author page by clicking on my linked name.


message 2: by Eduardo (last edited Jul 10, 2016 10:57AM) (new)

Eduardo Sanchez (sombragris) | 4 comments Hi John. I have a very limited 3G connection so watching a video is prohibitive. Do you have any transcript or summary? Thanks!


message 3: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Yes. Society would be insane chaos without True religion. Similar to drunken life in a pub.


message 4: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Hmmmm? Society mostly is That. Even some churches.


message 5: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments John - religion is too broad a term for any coherent discussion to ensue. Perhaps you could narrow it down to a branch and even a sect within.


message 6: by R.J. (new)

R.J. Gilbert (rjagilbert) | 93 comments How about: "does belief in the afterlife have a role?"


message 7: by Xdyj (new)

Xdyj I think faith should not be based on utilitarian considerations. We believe because we think what we believe in is the Truth. It does not need to materially benefit ourselves or the wider society.


message 8: by John (new) - added it

John Gravino | 15 comments John Gravino Hi. I want to respond to the comments here.

@Eduardo: I don't have a transcript of the video. There are brief summaries at my website and at Youtube.

@Rod: I agree with your assessment of society without TRUE RELIGION. Life, I think, would look a lot like the scenes depicted in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland. And yes, I think things are already beginning to look like that.

@Robert: The term "religion" is indeed too broad--I agree. But remember that I was basing the question on the introduction to the Eric Metaxas book: If You Can Keep It The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas . Up to that point in the book, Metaxas is only introducing his ideas to us. By chapter 2, I know that he gets more specific. There, he picks out Christianity as the religion he is talking about.

Nevertheless, the general question is still of value. This is because it responds to the general objection of the New Atheists against religion, namely that, "Religion poisons everything."

@Xdyj: Good point. Truth is the ultimate basis for a commitment to religion. But let's not be too quick to dismiss utilitarian considerations. The Bible actually encourages this way of thinking: "A tree is known by its fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit." etc. etc. Take those utilitarian statements and consider them in light of Gal. 5 where specific spiritual fruits are identified. As I show in my own book, Gal. 5 asserts that good mental health is a fruit of the Spirit. Both Aquinas and Augustine affirmed this reading of Gal. 5. Now consider what Christ asserts at Jn. 15: we cannot bear good fruit without Him. These statements taken together show that utilitarian considerations can provide empirical evidence for the truth of Christianity.


message 9: by Xdyj (new)

Xdyj I agree. However I think one potential issue with the utilitarian argument is that people may not always agree on what is good. For example, being an atheist, I won't see any inherent value in having a good afterlife or obeying the will of God, and a leftist won't see any value in being comfortable with and well adjusted to the status quo. Another possible issue is that it may work both ways: if good deeds by good Christians can be counted as evidence for the faith, then wouldn't bad deeds by misguided Christians be counted as evidence against the faith?


message 10: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments John - in Christianity, the afterlife is everything. After you have stumbled through your mortal days sullying everything and everyone you touch and generally stomping all over the Word of God, if you manage to accept Christ you still get rewarded! Go figure.


message 11: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle We all need a standard to even begin defining the terms good and bad.
Comically it's like attempting to prosecute the Nazi's for crimes against humanity. They insist they obeyed their own standard ---- I say laugh out loud and cheerfully boast "we will too, put them to death immediately then, why bother with a trial!!!"


message 12: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Loose quote:
"It's easier for a Christian to define Evil, than for an Atheist to define Good."


message 13: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Not so, Rod - as an Atheist is his own moral authority, anything he does is by his definition, good.


message 14: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle True - which means no two atheists can agree objectively about an un moveable standard of goodness. Hence, hitler would have been a Good atheist... As would Jeffrey Dalmer.

It's bizarre what they assume is BAD.


message 15: by John (new) - added it

John Gravino | 15 comments John GravinoCan we agree on what is good? That's the question that has dominated the discussion. Aquinas followed Aristotle in believing that the key to an objective basis for good and bad resides in our understanding of human flourishing and well-being. And New Atheist Sam Harris actually agrees with Aquinas on this.

I also agree, and that's why my own book focuses on mental health. No one is indifferent to their mental health. No one is okay with being suicidal or depressed.

What if evidence showed that religion and spirituality contribute to mental health in an essential way? In other words, what if the evidence showed that the mind suffers from symptoms of dysfunction in people without religion/spirituality?

This would certainly count as evidence that religion plays a positive role. It would also suggest that the mind is spiritual—an orthodox Christian teaching in fact. Gotta go. More to come later. JG


message 16: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments John - I'm sure if an intensive study were conducted, it would show SOME correlation between religion and mental health, but would not throw much illumination on the thorny problem of defining "good". After all, dog ownership lessens depression but some of the worst humans I know own pit bulls.


message 17: by R.J. (new)

R.J. Gilbert (rjagilbert) | 93 comments Which kind of religion would be studied?

The kind where God and all of Creation exists for the sole purpose of our self-preservation (here or in the afterlife)?

Or the kind where God wants us to become part of the bigger Creation He has put us in, but we have to yield our own selfish desires (including self-preservation) and give of ourselves to the greater Kingdom (not, I must add, to a human who has appointed him or herself king)?


message 18: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Robert - I'm not sure one can give up self-preservation except for spur of the moment acts (like impulsively jumping on a grenade). Survival seems to be one of those built in instincts distilled in our DNA. Other selfish desires can be overcome, but not without a firm reliance on the greater Kingdom you referenced. Just being "good" for goodness sake doesn't cut it with me - without an afterlife promise, this world is too infiltrated with evil to obsess about our meager contributions to decency. Converting the heathens to Christ's Kingdom however, does appear a sanctified and worthy, but frustrating, cause.


message 19: by John (new) - added it

John Gravino | 15 comments Robert C: Good comment on dog ownership. However, the research on a connection between religious practice and positive mental health is overwhelming, as I document in my book. The question you are raising is a classic one, and it has been answered by orthodox Christianity. In fact, it is the entire premise of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment."

As I show in my book, Augustine, Aquinas, Evagrius Ponticus, and Dostoyevsky all subscribe to the same Christian theory of mental health. It comes mainly from the Epistles, and it says that sin and other spiritual derelictions necessarily contribute to mental disorder.

So, to bring this back to your dog ownership example, this Christian theory would predict that any positive psychological benefits of dog ownership would potentially be cancelled by the sinfulness of the "bad pit bull owners."

I am sure that no such study on pit bull ownership exists, but there are many studies which link sinfulness to mental illness, and I discuss quite a few of them in my book. JG


message 20: by R.J. (new)

R.J. Gilbert (rjagilbert) | 93 comments Robert wrote: "Robert - I'm not sure one can give up self-preservation except for spur of the moment acts (like impulsively jumping on a grenade). Survival seems to be one of those built in instincts distilled in..."

Why does the soldier throw himself on the grenade? Is it because he's been led to believe that he'll wake up in Paradise, or Valhalla, or some other reward-based afterlife myth? Or is it because he believes in his cause? If it is his cause, would he then throw himself onto a grenade without the presence of his comrades? No. It is, in fact, the same reason I would show up at Church every Sunday, year after year, teaching and serving in every way that I could. It was because I believed in my friends, my family, and my community, and I was willing to invest in that belief with my time and my efforts. Likewise, that soldier who is giving his life for his comrades, his cause, and his country is doing so only because he believes in something bigger than himself.

Of course, there were a lot of folks who just showed up at church because they wanted to get into heaven, or paradise, or whatever other reward-based afterlife they were hoping for. So I guess that idea works, too.


message 21: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Robert - I never thought of showing up at church as being part of a "cause". I believed it was to worship God who's cause was uncaused and largely indecipherable by mankind. I don't like my faith behind reduced to nothing more than a special interest lobbying campaign.


message 22: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments John - well, yes, I've written books too, replete with plenty of research. I don't, however, consider them the last and defining contribution to the subject matter.


message 23: by R.J. (new)

R.J. Gilbert (rjagilbert) | 93 comments I can worship God in the Walmart parking lot. My God is not confined to a building or a day of the week.


message 24: by John (new) - added it

John Gravino | 15 comments @Robert C: I certainly don't see my book as the last word on the subject. On the contrary,I see it as the first word. I have posited an extremely controversial thesis, and have defended it in an original way. The thesis is this: It is not possible to be good without God.

In my book I do two things. First, I show that my thesis belongs to the long tradition of orthodox Christianity. Second, I show that there is a lot of empirical evidence to support it.

Specifically, my thesis develops in an Aristotelian/Thomist form. One understanding of "good" applies to things that perform their intended function. You would not describe a pencil sharpener as "good" if it could not sharpen pencils.

Similarly with humans (and with the human mind), the argument goes. A human mind cannot be a good one if it cannot perform its function—if it is dysfunctional.

The argument that you cannot be good without God says that sin and spiritual neglect produce mental disorder and dysfunction. This is a classical Christian theory, as I mentioned in a previous post. But the thesis is now supported by loads of evidence from neuroscience and other places.

This is a new argument and a controversial one. JG


message 25: by John (new) - added it

John Gravino | 15 comments I just posted a link to my next video presentation of the new Eric Metaxas book. The topic is: "Can Democracy Survive the Sexual Revolution?" See it here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 26: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments John - your thesis appears to be a sound one. Hopefully it is useful to Christianity's overarching dictate to bring lost sheep back into the fold. I have a question that may be purely semantic.
Spiritual neglect seems fuzzy to me as many squarely in the dysfunctional category would claim some inexplicable spirituality - does your theory require a definitive "God" or will the ten step program's "higher power" suffice for mental reparation?


message 27: by R.J. (new)

R.J. Gilbert (rjagilbert) | 93 comments Robert,
What do you mean by a "definitive" God?

As for lost sheep...who is to say that those who have left the fold are the ones who are lost? If there is a wolf within the walls, those who scatter have a better chance of being found alive the next morning. Those who stay behind are the ones who are counted as lost.


message 28: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Okerson (authorjdokerson) | 16 comments Hello I'm Josh and I'm new to this site. I'm just trying to make new friends. A friend referred me to this app because I'm writing my first book about an experience I had with God. If you would like to read a little from my book check out the link of my profile. there it will direct you to my Facebook page where you can read the first two chapters !


message 29: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Robert - I'll refer you back to the Bible if you have trouble distinguishing lost sheep from wolves. As for a definitive God, that would take an entire separate book to even elucidate a pathway toward "His" hideout. I guess a quick and dirty delineation would entail a recognized "God" as having numerous discrete moral and faith necessities in order to join the Kingdom whereas a higher power or the like is a lot more cloudy with HIs/It's dictates.


message 30: by R.J. (new)

R.J. Gilbert (rjagilbert) | 93 comments Welcome, Josh.

I don't do facebook, but I am intrigued by your testimony–especially your choice of words. Don't be surprised, though, if you are not welcomed warmly by everybody here. Especially since, if you haven’t yet been told, your use of phrases like “Absolute Reality” makes you sound a lot like an Eastern Philosopher. I had a similar experience when I was a teenager, and I spent decades searching for the words to describe my new relationship with God that didn’t make my Christian friends want to throw stones at me. The phrase I kept coming back to was "Ultimate Reality", although I found out later that the phrase was used by both Plato and Buddha (or at least the English translations of their teachings).

I’m interested in a copy of your PDF, if you still have one available. I’ll just say, right now, that your experience sounds real and that you are not alone. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered, there are two kinds of experiences with God. One is the kind God instigates; He just drops it on you whether you're ready or not (and it changes your life). The other is where you go to seminary and spend years jumping through hoops and initiation rituals until you've earned the magical letters after your name that tells people you know more about God than they do. Obviously, the latter is not me.


message 31: by R.J. (new)

R.J. Gilbert (rjagilbert) | 93 comments Robert wrote: "Robert - I'll refer you back to the Bible if you have trouble distinguishing lost sheep from wolves. As for a definitive God, that would take an entire separate book to even elucidate a pathway tow..."

So those religious leaders who crucified Jesus--not to mention the religious leaders who persecuted the disciples... Were they lost sheep? Or were they the wolves?

There seems to be no distinction in modern theology between the sheep in the flock and those shepherds with the big eyes (the better to see you with), the big ears (the better to hear you with), and especially that big mouth...the better to use big, intimidating words and phrases that don’t mean anything to the un-initiated.


message 32: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Robert - one always has to be wary of wolves, both inside and outside the faith Lost sheep are incapable of becoming true wolves, but that doesn't mean they can't do severe damage when in their "separation from God" state. That makes it incumbent upon the remaining believers to attempt to reassemble the flock. If the shepherd is inviolate, it will always show eventually in the fruit he bears..


message 33: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Welcome Joshua. Thanks for sharing something so personal.

Having said that, I don't tolerate spiritual fruity charismatic insanity with Buddhist leanings... or liberal tree-hugger eco-friendly potheads. I don't kill them --- just poke fun at them a fair bit. And I welcome their defenses.

But I'm also highly in favor of anything that stands strongly with the Biblical account. Yes - even a talking donkey and a guy riding in a whale. But I don't applaud those events on a daily basis. God seldom repeats His coolest miracles. He even promises NOT to repeat Noah's flood - the next miracle might be more of a nasty fiery apocalypse type Festival.

So... this isn't necessarily a great place to make friends. It is a great place to have your religious assumptions challenged. And you'll see that even annoying ornery people like Robert and myself can be life long friends - as long as we agree what goes on the BBQ and what doesn't.

If you like Olives then I hate you. I also hate ALL BBQ sauces. A good steak needs nothing but heat.


message 34: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Okerson (authorjdokerson) | 16 comments I would have to say yes. I'm not religious, but religion (weather it's true or not) does give people hope and that is a good thing. it also establishes a government and keeps society within a mean.


message 35: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Government??? Do tell.


message 36: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments Rod - you're ornery, I'm just tough love (smiles).


message 37: by John (new) - added it

John Gravino | 15 comments Robert wrote: "John - your thesis appears to be a sound one. Hopefully it is useful to Christianity's overarching dictate to bring lost sheep back into the fold. I have a question that may be purely semantic.
Spi..."


Robert C: Sorry to take so long to reply.

"Spiritual neglect seems fuzzy to me as many squarely in the dysfunctional category would claim some inexplicable spirituality - does your theory require a definitive "God" or will the ten step program's "higher power" suffice for mental reparation? "

Your question is an excellent one. I devote quite a lot of space in my book to answering it. The argument of my book is that, to the extent that any spiritual practice conforms to the actual spiritual laws, to that extent the practice should be beneficial to mental health.

Since I believe that orthodox, traditional Christianity is the truest, my theory predicts that such Christianity ought to yield the greatest mental health benefit. I present evidence in my book that such is the case.

Millennials appear to offer strong evidence in support of traditional as opposed to innovative forms of spirituality. They have the lowest percentage of affiliation with traditional religious institutions according to Pew. At the same time, they show a keen interest in alternative forms of spirituality—spirituality without the Church, without the Bible, etc.

How's their mental health? Millennials, with the lowest percentage of religious affiliation of any demographic group, also have the highest incidence of mental illness and suicide of any demographic group. Not a coincidence according to my book's thesis.JG


message 38: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments John - your findings about millennial mental health aren't too surprising as most liberal churches are merely hook-up venues for young fornicators.


message 39: by John (new) - added it

John Gravino | 15 comments Robert wrote: "John - your findings about millennial mental health aren't too surprising as most liberal churches are merely hook-up venues for young fornicators."

OUCH! Robert, I have to say that I am not that cynical. It's a safe bet that all people genuinely seek their own happiness--they seek their own good. But people have become lost. People get lost in their pleasures. They become restless, sensing that there is more to life. They set off in search of meaning, and many experiment with spirituality.

Robert, these people need us desperately--we who understand the principle message of the Gospel: that Christ is all in all. Christ, because He is God is the Source of all good. To deny this is Pelagianism and the consequences of this heresy on human happiness, well-being, and salvation are enormous.

My book is attempting to demonstrate this first Gospel principle to a secular audience. It's a message they cannot live without.


message 40: by Robert (new)

Robert Core | 1864 comments John - all you state is essentially true, but you highly overstate the goodness of man. No less an authority than God painted mankind as evil through and through. Christ is indeed the answer, but his message can't be parsed. Borrowing terminology from current events, the Son's message must be strictly constructed. Liberally altering it to make pseudo-Christians feel less burdened by their sinfulness is folly. Perhaps I'll get around to reading you book, but I hope it emphasizes a Christ who is loving and forgiving, but who means precisely what is quoted in Gospel.


back to top

68984

Christian Theological/Philosophical Book Club

unread topics | mark unread


Books mentioned in this topic

If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

John Gravino (other topics)