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Revelation. Part 1 Religious Experience. Religious Experience . Numinosity Feeling of presence of awesome power Feeling of distinctly separate Some classify numinosity as a feature Some classify it as a type which can be contrasted with mystical experience. Rudolph Otto.

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Revelation


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    1. Revelation Part 1 Religious Experience

    2. Religious Experience • Numinosity • Feeling of presence of awesome power • Feeling of distinctly separate • Some classify numinosity as a feature • Some classify it as a type which can be contrasted with mystical experience

    3. Rudolph Otto • The idea of the Holy (1936) • ‘numinous’ = otherness • Religion must derive from a being totally separate • In presence of that being numinosity is experienced • But many say God is not impersonal

    4. Martin Buber (1878-1965) • Stress personal relationship and concept of numinous • God can reveal himself on personal level • Can understand God through other people and nature • ‘In each Thou we address the Eternal Thou.’

    5. Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) • Supported Buber position • (or the other way round, note dates) • Saw faith as a miracle • Can only know God through leap of faith • Faith arises through experience, including religious experience • Individual knowledge of God can vary • Depends on: • Personal level of faith • Personal denomination of faith • Type of faith

    6. Mystical Experience • Often contain voices or visions • Involves spiritual recognition of truths beyond normal understanding • Features • Knowledge of ‘ultimate reality’ gained • Sense of freedom from limitations of time and space • Sense of ‘oneness’ with divine • Sense of bliss or serenity

    7. William James • Famous commentator on religious experience • The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) • Four characteristics of mystical experience • Ineffability • Noetic Quality • Transciency • Passivity

    8. William James • Ineffability • Religious experiences tend to be private events • Consist of indescribable sensations • St Teresa of Avila • ‘I wish I could give a description of at least the smallest part of what I learned, but, when I try to discover a way of doing so, I find it impossible.’

    9. William James • Noetic Quality • Provide insights into unobtainable truths • Knowledge acquired through intuition and perception

    10. William James • Transciency • Most religious experiences last between a few minutes and 2 hours • But, the significance and effects are out of proportion to duration • Dreaming for a few minutes can seem like hours

    11. William James • Passivity • Sense of loss of control to higher being • Taking on of different personalities • E.g. writing with wrong hand speaking in an unlearned language

    12. F.C.Happold (1893-1971) • Mysticism – A study and an Anthology (1963) • Sought to provide context in which to discuss mystical experiences • Two types • The Mysticism of Love and Union • The Mysticism of Knowledge and Understanding

    13. F.C.Happold • The Mysticism of Love and Union • The longing to escape ‘separateness’ • Or a desire for union with God • We are governed by two urges • The desire to be an individual (separation) • The desire to be accepted (to be part of something bigger than ourselves) • This is because we are sharers in ‘the Divine Life’

    14. F.C.Happold • The Mysticism of Knowledge and Understanding • Another urge • We want to know the ‘secret of the universe’ (the meaning of life) • We can look for this through experiential knowledge of God • Whereas most philosophers play games of ‘conceptual counters’ this knowledge is gained through intuition • James’ idea of noetic quality

    15. F.C.Happold • As well as two ‘types’ of mysticism Happold says there are three aspects • Soul-mysticism • Nature-mysticism • God-mysticism

    16. F.C.Happold • Soul-mysticism • Soul is hidden or numinous • Mystical experience is therefore ‘finding the soul’ • Looking for self-fulfilment • This form of mysticism does not deal with God

    17. F.C.Happold • Nature-mysticism • God is immanent • He is everywhere A motion and a spirit That impels all thinking things All objects of all thought And rolls through all things Wordsworth

    18. F.C.Happold • God-mysticism • A desire to return to ones ‘immortal and infinite Ground, which is God’ • Idea that human soul is ‘deified’ • Becomes God whilst retaining own identity • E.g. Sufi Muslims

    19. Voices and Visions • Mystical experiences often feature voices and or visions • For example • Conversion of St Paul (Acts 9) • Julian of Norwich 14th 15th century female mystic • And he showed me more, a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, on the palm of my hand, round like a ball. I looked at it thoughtfully and wondered, ‘What is this?’ And the answer came, ‘It is all that is made.’

    20. Conversion experiences • Conversion is • Regeneration • Assurance of divine truth • Greater understanding of faith • Adopting religious attitudes and way of life

    21. Conversion experiences • Psychological Background to Conversion • Each person has a number of aims/ideas in their mind ranked by importance • Which aim is of paramount importance at any one time depends on circumstances • A Transformation is when one aim establishes permanent priority • Emotional excitement can change our primary aim from day to day • People prone to emotional excitement find it difficult to focus on any one aim • If a permanent shift of focus is observed it may well be a conversion experience • If the excitement is caused by something religious then it can be classed as a religious conversion • Often neither the subject nor the observer can say what caused the emotional excitement

    22. Conversion experiences • Prof. Edwin D. Starbuck • Noted that all adolescents go through symptoms similar to a religious experience • Caused by feelings of • Incompleteness and imperfection, brooding depression etc • So adolescents who claim to have a religious experience could simply be shifting their feelings to religion • Starbuck noted though that theology shortened the period of storm and stress

    23. Conversion experiences • William James • Noted that some people will never turn to religion • Maybe cynical • Hindered by pessimistic beliefs • Some are temporally inhibited • Refuse to believe but change their mind

    24. Conversion experiences • Types of conversion • Volitional • Gradual change • But may one day suddenly become aware of it • Self-surrender • Involuntary • Unconscious experience • Usually two things are important in conversion • Present sins with a desire to change • Positive changes to be made

    25. Conversion experiences • Permanency • Often converts have little knowledge of what they have converted to • As knowledge is gained so problems are encountered • Some will effectively convert back to their old ways • The gradual volitional change is most like to hold

    26. Conversion experiences • Examples of conversion • Intellectual • Moral • Social

    27. Conversion experiences • Intellectual conversion • Conflict between systems of thought • One becomes ‘true’ and one ‘false’ • Can be between religious and non-religious ideas • Can be between two different religious ideas

    28. Conversion experiences • Moral conversion • Revolves around lifestyle rather that intellectual thought • James H. Leuba gives an example • ‘Swearing Tom’ went to church, took note of what the preacher said, went home – avoiding the pup on the way – and became ‘Praying Tom’.

    29. Conversion experiences • Social conversion • Takes place slowly in subconscious • Followed by a rapid sudden change • An example would be the conversion of St Paul on the road to Damascus

    30. Conversion experiences • William James’ conclusions • Sudden conversion is very real to the individual • For Methodists, salvation only comes to those who go through a conversion experience • A sudden conversion is like a miracle • Even a conversion that seems natural is inspired by the divine

    31. Corporate Revelations • Toronto Blessing • Started on 10 January 1994 • Toronto Airport Vineyard Church • Since then has spread around the world • Said to be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit • Effects are • Falling in the spirit • Shaking • Weeping • laughter

    32. Putting it all together • Answer the following exam question in groups • To what extent do mystical experiences show the existence of God?.

    33. How to answer • Explain the concept of mystical experience • Explain and discuss the ideas of W. James • Explain and discuss the ideas of Happold • What do you think and why? • Conclusion

    34. Revelation Part 2 Miracles

    35. Miracles • The word ‘miracle’ tends to be used in society to refer to an amazing event • E.g. birth of a child • In religious terms the word ‘miracle’ is intended to refer to something far more significant • In terms of revealing God, the idea of miracles is appealing as they can offer physical evidence

    36. What is a Miracle? • Traditional concept • An interruption to the process of nature that cannot be explained by natural laws • An interruption that bears some deeper, usually religious significance • “A miracle may be accurately defined as ‘A transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent’.” David Hume, An enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748

    37. What is a Miracle? • Richard Swinburne • Illustrates transgression with biblical examples e.g. turning water into wine • But wine can be made with water as the main ingredient • The miracle is therefore in the timing • Illustrates the deeper significance • “If God intervened in the natural order to make a feather drop here rather than there for no deep ultimate purpose, or to upset a child’s box of toys just for spite, these events would not naturally be described as miracles.” Richard Swinburne (ed), Miracles, 1989

    38. What is a Miracle? • R.F. Holland • Suggests that something does not have to break natural law in order to be considered a miracle • ‘A coincidence can be taken religiously as a sign and called a miracle.’ • E.g. A young boy strays on to a railway line just as a train comes along, the boy would be hit and killed except that the driver suddenly has a heart attack, releases the dead man’s handle and the train stops a metre from the boy.

    39. Can a miracle occur? • Taking Holland’s view, clearly the answer is ‘yes’. • However, Hume says • “Nothing is esteemed a miracle if it ever happens in the common course of nature” David Hume, An enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748

    40. Can a miracle occur? • Three points to consider • Doubt as to existence of natural laws • The argument against miracles from the definition of a natural law • Hume’s critique of miracles

    41. Can a miracle occur? • Doubt as to existence of natural laws • If there are no natural laws they cannot be broken • therefore definition of a miracle breaking a natural law does not hold • Brian Davies • God is equally present in every action • Therefore on intervention • Most Theists • Accept that God has put natural laws in place for benefit of humans • God can, and does, interrupt the natural process

    42. Can a miracle occur? • The argument against miracles from the definition of a natural law • John Hick • “We can declare a prior that there are no miracles” • Natural laws are formed retrospectively based on what has already happened • An unusual, previously unwitnessed event, widens our understanding of natural laws • Swinburne • We can say what we would normally expect to happened in a given situation • Therefore an event like a resurrection is miraculous as it goes against the norm

    43. Can a miracle occur? • Hume’s critique of miracles • Did not say miracles • Simply claimed that we could not prove that one had happened • Laws of nature supported innumerably over hundreds of years • E.g. millions of examples to show that once dead, humans do not return to life • So, in light of evidence, more probable that miracle did not happen

    44. Can a miracle occur? • Hume’s additional arguments • First • Insufficient number of reliable people attesting miracles • Second • Those testifying to the miracle have natural tendency to suspend reason • Third • The source of miracle stories are from ignorant peoples • Fourth • Writers of miracle stories are bias and have a vested interest in promoting their religion

    45. Can a miracle occur? • Critique of Hume • The whole point of a miracle is that it is the exception to the rule • We would also have to reject much of recent science as it has changed our perception of the world • Brian Davies gives an example: people have now walked on the moon, once thought impossible • R Swinburne argues that we use the same criteria to determine scientific laws as we do for determining miracles, if we accept one we should accept the other

    46. Can a miracle occur? • Critique of Hume’s additional points • Gave no indication of what a sufficient number would be • Miracles come from just about all nations • That people need to prove their intelligence is objectionable • That miracles are claimed by different religions does not rule out possibility of them happening

    47. Can a miracle occur? • Maurice Wiles • Rejects miracles on moral grounds • Why no intervention in Auschwitz and yet there are acclaimed interventions in trivial matters • Either God does not intervene or he chooses to help some and not others • If the latter, he is not worthy of worship

    48. Implications of miracles for problem of evil • Miracle accounts talk of god intervening to help those who worship him • But, if all-loving he would want to help followers equally • Why then help some and not others? • Were those rescued through the Exodus morally superior to the 6 million killed in the holocaust? • This argument does not count against miracles intended to demonstrate his existence rather than help individuals • For example resurrection of Christ cannot be perceived as ‘unfair’

    49. Putting it all together • Answer the following exam question in groups • ‘Hume has shown that miracles are nothing more than an attempt to justify one’s religion’. Discuss.

    50. How to answer • Explain the concept of miracles • Explain Hume’s arguments against them • Critically discuss Hume’s ideas bringing in the ideas of Davies, Hick and Swinburne • What do you think and why? • Conclusion