Pen as Sword - Social Commentary

Models … and Socratic Dialogue …

St. Mathew and the Angel

St. Mathew and the Angel

Failed and failing models have been with us for most of history. In the Catholic world, today is the Feast of St. Mathew. Little is known about St. Matthew, except that he was the son of Alpheus, and he was likely born in Galilee.

He worked as a Roman tax collector, a profession which was a hated during the time of Christ. According to the Gospel, Matthew was working at a collection booth in Capernaum when Christ came to him and asked, “Follow me.” With this simple call, Matthew became a disciple of Christ.

From Matthew we know of the many doings of Christ and the message Christ spread of salvation for all people who come to God through Him. The Gospel account of Matthew tells the same story as that found in the other three Gospels, so scholars are certain of its authenticity. His book is the first of the four Gospels in the New Testament, Mathew, Mark, Like, and John

Many years following the death of Christ, around 41 to 50 AD, Matthew wrote his gospel account. He wrote the book in Aramaic in the hope that his account would convince his fellow Jews that Jesus was the Messiah and that His kingdom had been fulfilled in a spiritual way.

Destruction of Jewish Temple, AD 70 by Roman Legions.

Destruction of Jewish Temple, AD 70 by Roman Legions.

It was an important message at a time when almost everyone was still expecting the return of a militant messiah brandishing a sword, and restoring dominance to the Kingdom of Israel. That was the “Model” generally accepted by the majority of Jews in Palestine at that time.

The foundational failure of that archetypal Model was worked out in agony and suffering when Roman Legions destroyed Jerusalem in 70 ADSome reports put the death toll of the conquest of Jerusalem at over 600,000 from both the actions of the Roman conquerors and the fratricidal combat between various disagreeing factions amongst the Jewish defenders.

Even when facing death the factions of believers of conflicting sub-models couldn’t let their models go. So folks really get attached to their model being right and will not accept anything else even on pain of death. Not testing our models can be, and often is, deadly. So, how to test our models?

Father Hunwicke presents a nice little Socratic Dialogue on his site today.

Now Catholics have a model regarding Jesus Christ being the only Child of the Virgin Mary. One of the interesting things about Models (previous post here) is that the elements of a Model or a “Worldview” can be identified and considered in a logical and rational manner, devoid of subjective emotionalism and moral relativism. Design and construction of a worldview can be analyzed without having a physical creation present to hammer on.

We can employ and enjoy “Gedankenexperiments” which rely on generally accepted rules of conduct and logic to maintain the focus on truth, the subject of the discussion, and give direction of the discussion. The name of this particular experiment is “Socratic Dialogue”, named after Socrates, of course, one of the early practitioners of such logical discussion.

Perhaps the biggest flag regarding the validity or failure of any model is the willingness or unwillingness of the developers and adherents of the model to engage in these sorts of discussions. Father Hunwicke’s short piece perfectly illustrates the fruitless pursuit of discussing most “soft” models with the developers and adherents of same.

The statement “all right minded people know this to be true” no more imparts truth, than the man in a dark room yelling that “there is no sun” blots out the sun. Still it shines … and here is the dialogue … with pretty typical results …

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Haereticus: The Gospels make it quite clear that Jesus had brothers.
Catholicus: They don’t. “Adelphoi” can mean kinsmen. It doesn’t have to mean uterine (that is, born-of-the-same-womb) brothers.
Haereticus: So you say. But that’s the obvious meaning if anyone talks about “Jesus’ brothers” in any language, isn’t it?
Catholicus: Not at all. Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospels, in their accounts of the Crucifixion, both talk about “Mary the mother of James and Joses [or Joseph]”. If this Mary had been the same as Christ’s own mother, it would have been very odd for them not to refer to her as the Mother of Jesus. The “obvious” and natural inference is that the “Mother of James and Joses” was a different Mary from “Mary the Mother of Jesus”.
Haereticus: So what?
Catholicus: Well, in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55, the places where those “brothers of Jesus” are mentioned, the full text reads: ” Jesus the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses [or Joseph] and Judas and Simon”. We’ve just seen that this James and this Joses are apparently the sons of some Mary who was not the same as Mary the Mother of Jesus. And they’re the first two on the list here. The list is thus clearly not itemizing individuals who were uterine brothers of Jesus.
Haereticus: Well, I still think it’s obvious that …
Catholicus: If it’s so “obvious”, you’ve got some explaining to do. Throughout the second century the Gospels were increasingly regarded as ‘canonical’ and authoritative. If it is so “obvious” that James and the rest of those listed in the Gospels were uterine brothers of Jesus, then the tradition that Jesus was Mary’s only child must have arisen well before those Gospels came to be regarded as authorities. Otherwise, when somebody started saying “she never had any more children”, somebody who had read the Gospels would have said “Aha, you’re wrong: here’s a list of his brothers”. So, if you’re right about it being so “obvious”, you’re going to have to admit that Mary’s perpetual virginity is so early a tradition as to predate the acquisition of authority by our Four Gospels; which modern scholarship dates to the beginning of the second century at the latest. I’ve got you either way.
Haereticus: That’s all gobbledygook. It’s obvious …
Catholicus: That’s the problem with you Prods and you Liberals. You’re impervious to evidence and to reason.
Haereticus: Of course we are. “Reason is the Devil’s Whore”. Martin Luther said so. It’s obvious.

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