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Old 02-14-2018, 06:50 PM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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Praying in public, ashes, etc. and Matthew 6

Seeing people with ashes on their heads today for Ash Wednesday reminded me of a question I have for observant Christians regarding that and other public displays of piety, prayers, etc.

I read the four Gospels a while back and remember getting really confused by the beginning of Matthew 6. In that section, Jesus seems to get really specific about how to be pious, how to pray, how to show your piety.

Here's the section:

Quote:
1. Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2. [section about anonymous giving].

Prayer
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray...[Lord's Prayer follows]
First, walking around with ashes on your forehead seems to go directly against paragraph 1. Then, starting in paragraph 5, He cautions against public prayer, basically saying you should never do it. It makes you a hypocrite and says you'll get nothing from such prayer. Then, He says not to actually pray for anything specific, but rather just speak the Lord's Prayer and the Lord will know what's in your heart.

This is all so in conflict with many things I see Christians do -- praying in public, before each meal, praying for specific things, not using the Lord's prayer, practicing righteousness in front of others (public prayers, ashes on the forehead, and maybe even wearing crosses) -- that I think I must be missing something obvious.

So, help a guy out. I'm asking honestly, this isn't some sort of gotcha. I ask other skeptics, atheists, etc., to participate in good faith (ha!) as well.

I'm pretty busy tonight, so I may not be back into this thread (assuming anyone is interested) until tomorrow. Also, if this question has been asked many times before, feel free to just link to those threads. If it has been answered, I'll ask a mod to close this one.

Thanks!
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:07 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Well, it says not to do it in public to be seen by others. So if you're not doing it in order to be seen by others, then it doesn't seem to violate the code. The rest of that is a little more explicit about praying by yourself, but it seems that the main gist is what your motivation is. Are you showing off, or just praying while you happen to be in public? The latter is OK, the former not so much. Saying grace with your family is not what I'd call "in public".

Last edited by John Mace; 02-14-2018 at 07:08 PM.
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:22 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Not to be 'that guy' because I'm usually not, but this all works on the premise that people actually do what the bible tells them to do as opposed to just cherry picking the parts they like and pretending like the other parts don't exist.

That passage also suggests not to pray by going on and on and on and on and (in some versions) just repeating the same thing over and over and over...I know I haven't been to Church in about 25 years, but that's about how I remember it.
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:23 PM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is online now
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See? No matter how much it's in public, even if it's in a football stadium, they make a big show of it and link it up to some social/political aim, they can say that it's not to be seen in public or to serve that social/political end, it's to have many people take part in praying together and to communally ask for help with that social/political aim. Even a televangelist who prays from his megachurch podium on TV every week can say that he merely aims to motivate people to pray and to pray along with his audience. You'd have to have a thought reading device to prove them wrong since whenever they make sure to pray in public, they can always say that it's not to be seen per se, it just happens to be in public in a way that coincidentally matches up with the behavior of someone who wants to be seen praying in public.

Which is all bullshit rationalization to give a veneer of absolute certainty, authority and license to what people start out wanting to do but that's hardly new.
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:23 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Even more on point is verses 16-18 of that chapter:

Quote:
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
That doesn't even get into the motivations for why you're leaving a smudge on your face: It just flat-out says that you should wash up so that others can't tell that you're fasting.

Last edited by Chronos; 02-14-2018 at 07:24 PM.
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:30 PM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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John Mace, thank you, but that seems a little stretched. Chronos, thanks for that other reference as well.

Joey P and MichaelEMouse, I'm not a moderator, but I'd like to ask again that this stays civil. I'm not in any way a believer, but I'd like to understand better how this can possibly make sense. This passage really stunned me, given how I've seen Christians act and I'd like to understand the mindset. I think your posts are not helpful, and may discourage actual Christians from responding.
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:01 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Well, it says not to do it in public to be seen by others. So if you're not doing it in order to be seen by others, then it doesn't seem to violate the code. The rest of that is a little more explicit about praying by yourself, but it seems that the main gist is what your motivation is. Are you showing off, or just praying while you happen to be in public? The latter is OK, the former not so much. Saying grace with your family is not what I'd call "in public".
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
John Mace, thank you, but that seems a little stretched.
It seems totally on point to me. IMHO the most natural interpretation is that Jesus is talking about motivation: Are you praying or fasting or whatever in order to be seen by others? Jesus's own personal example suggests that he wasn't forbidding all prayer in front of other people. For example, he once gave thanks in front of over 5000 people.

IMHO it's most natural to believe, and most Christians do believe, that Jesus gave the Lord's Prayer as an example, not as the only prayer one should ever pray. Again, evidence for this view includes Jesus's own personal example.

As for the Ash Wednesday ashes, I am not a Catholic (nor a member of any other church that regularly practices this), but I think the ashes are for the benefit of those receiving them, not so that they can be seen by others. For example, I found this Catholic site (warning: autoplay video) that says
Quote:
It is important to remember that Ash Wednesday is a day of penitential prayer and fasting. Some faithful take the rest of the day off work and remain home. It is generally inappropriate to dine out, to shop, or to go about in public after receiving the ashes. ...
It is not required that a person wear the ashes for the rest of the day, and they may be washed off after Mass. However, many people keep the ashes as a reminder until the evening.
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:14 PM
Biffster Biffster is offline
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Hypocrisy, thy name is public prayer.
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:18 PM
UDS UDS is offline
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
John Mace, thank you, but that seems a little stretched.
I don't think it seems a little stretched at all; John Mace is just pointing out what the text says. On the contrary, it seems to me like a bit of a stretch to ignore those words and read the text as if they weren't there.

There's an inevitable tension here: on the one hand Christianity is a communal religion and it's simply not possible to be a Christian on your own. Practising Christianity with others, and therefore in a way visible to others, is an intrinsic part of the whole thing. Plus, Christianity is not a religion which preaches or requires disengagement from the world; quite the reverse. So practising Christianity in the sight of the world seems inevitable. All the major Christian traditions, and nearly all of the minor ones, are insistent that, for instance, Christian worship is public; all are welcome, Christian or not.

On the other hand, explicit demonstrations of Christianity in order to seek social advantage or approbation is frowned upon. And of course there's always a fear that any demonstration of Christian faith may be motivated, or partly motivated, by that desire.

So you have to balance that tension, and different traditions strike the balance in different ways. But they all experience the same tension.

In the quotes from Mt 6, verses 1 and 5 forbid ostentatious manifestations of faith, but it's explicit that they are forbidden when the purpose is to secure social approbation. That's not explicitly repeated in verse 18, but verse 18 does contrast discreet behavior with the behaviour of the "hypocrites" in verse 16, who "disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting", so I think the message is, again, you shouldn't be doing this to impress others.
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:28 PM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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I'm sorry, but He specifically says to pray in private, in your room. It's right there in the text. And, while maybe you don't need to use the exact words of the Lord's Prayer, He's pretty specific that you shouldn't pray for things specifically. Don't pray to keep your mother safe, to cure some disease, save someone. Just pray to the Lord, since He knows what's in your heart. In contrast to that, people pray for specific things all the time.

I disagree that you couldn't have a communal religion without public prayer. You could get together and study the bible, have a community experience, get communion, give to the poor (anonymously, of course), etc., but save the prayers for when you're home.

Also, giving thanks in front of people is not praying in front of people. It's thanking them.

I'm sorry if I'm coming across as argumentative, but this passage really baffles me.
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:39 PM
TonySinclair TonySinclair is offline
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
He says not to actually pray for anything specific,
I don't know that he says that, although it's not a ridiculous interpretation. But in other passages, he explicitly says that you can ask for whatever you want in prayer, even casting a mountain into the sea, and it will be granted to you (and he says it right after killing a fig tree out of spite for not having fruit out of season, as if to make even very slow learners realize your prayers don't have to be noble or unselfish).

The fact that not a single Christian in the last 2000 years has been able to demonstrate this power of instantly get whatever you ask for is IMO all you need to know about the veracity of Jesus' promises regarding things more difficult to test, such as eternal life.
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:48 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
He's pretty specific that you shouldn't pray for things specifically. Don't pray to keep your mother safe, to cure some disease, save someone.
I'm not sure where you're getting this from.

Quote:
Also, giving thanks in front of people is not praying in front of people. It's thanking them.
I interpreted "and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks" as meaning he was thanking God, not thanking people. Giving thanks to God is an aspect of praying.

I wonder what you make of John 11:41-42.
Quote:
Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:08 PM
Euphrosyne Euphrosyne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
Seeing people with ashes on their heads today for Ash Wednesday reminded me of a question I have for observant Christians regarding that and other public displays of piety, prayers, etc.

I read the four Gospels a while back and remember getting really confused by the beginning of Matthew 6. In that section, Jesus seems to get really specific about how to be pious, how to pray, how to show your piety.

Here's the section:

First, walking around with ashes on your forehead seems to go directly against paragraph 1. Then, starting in paragraph 5, He cautions against public prayer, basically saying you should never do it. It makes you a hypocrite and says you'll get nothing from such prayer. Then, He says not to actually pray for anything specific, but rather just speak the Lord's Prayer and the Lord will know what's in your heart.

This is all so in conflict with many things I see Christians do -- praying in public, before each meal, praying for specific things, not using the Lord's prayer, practicing righteousness in front of others (public prayers, ashes on the forehead, and maybe even wearing crosses) -- that I think I must be missing something obvious.

So, help a guy out. I'm asking honestly, this isn't some sort of gotcha. I ask other skeptics, atheists, etc., to participate in good faith (ha!) as well.

I'm pretty busy tonight, so I may not be back into this thread (assuming anyone is interested) until tomorrow. Also, if this question has been asked many times before, feel free to just link to those threads. If it has been answered, I'll ask a mod to close this one.

Thanks!

RitterSport, 1. is it your impression that most Christians feel it's inappropriate to pray in public, i.e., in church during Sunday observances, or during a memorial service?

2. Given that Christians believe Jesus is God, is it your impression that when Jesus walked upon the Earth, He objected to people asking Him for specific favors, like, "Lord, please cast the demon out of my son". Or, "Lord, if you will it, my servant will be healed." or "If I but touch the tassel of his prayer-shawl, I shall get well." . . . ?

3. Is it your impression that Jesus when He walked upon the Earth, He had a problem with Jewish men wearing the customary tasseled prayer-shawls? (Hint: He wore one)
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:21 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
John Mace, thank you, but that seems a little stretched. Chronos, thanks for that other reference as well.

Joey P and MichaelEMouse, I'm not a moderator, but I'd like to ask again that this stays civil. I'm not in any way a believer, but I'd like to understand better how this can possibly make sense. This passage really stunned me, given how I've seen Christians act and I'd like to understand the mindset. I think your posts are not helpful, and may discourage actual Christians from responding.
What I said isn't, in anyway, intended as a dig (though it may come off as one). As an Atheist (and I'm a card carrying member myself), you should see that Christians pick and choose what they follow, believe, say they believe, preach etc. You'll have a difficult time finding one that acts (or even believes (in a do as I do, not as I say type way)) in accordance with the Bible.
The passage you pointed out is simply one of many ignored, or unknown, by many believers.

There are, of course, some of the more obvious once, but there's also things like not giving in to wealth (Matthew 19:23). Luke 16:18 states that it's adultery, which breaks a commandant, to get divorced and remarry or to marry a divorced woman*. Philippians 2:14-18, no complaining about anything, ever.
Going down a bit further from the OP (Matthew 25-28) it says not to worry about food or clothes, god will figure all that out. As long as you're good today, he'll take care of tomorrow.

It's a long book with lots of short passages by a bunch of people. We could go on and on. All I'm saying is that you took one and asked why it gets ignored. People ignore it because they want to, because they can, because everyone else does, because they don't get called on it (though Atheists do).

IOW, it's ignored because most people aren't aware of it or don't care. I'd guess mostly the former. IME, most Catholics only know what their priest tells them on Sunday. So each week they get a few sentences directly from the bible and a 5-10 minute homily of which it's quality is totally dependent on the priest.

TL;DR If you've "seen Christians act and I'd like to understand the mindset." this is all it is. Cherry picking bible passages that align with their behavior, whether as a motivation or a defense, and ignoring the ones that don't.

And, to be honest, of everything in the bible, if that's the one they want to ignore, it's pretty innocuous.
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:47 PM
Euphrosyne Euphrosyne is offline
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Many Christians appear to be ignoring what it says in the Bible, by either doing what it says not to do in the Bible, or not doing what it says to do.

I want to be extremely careful and culturally sensitive here: I can only speak from my Catholic understanding. I don't know the Protestant views on these matters well enough to speak about them.

I can tell you that the Catholic Church regards the Bible as the Word of God written especially for us to revere and to obey. But reading it, it's possible to find laws, precepts, remarks that seem to contradict one another.

The Apostles, the followers of Christ, were extremely close to the Master, and He explained and reconciled all of these things to them both before and following His Resurrection. So that it all made sense. The Apostles themselves had disciples to whom they imparted the glosses, the teachings, the explanations that Christ had given to them. And the disciples of the Apostles had disciples. And so on, down through the generations. These teachings became what's known as the oral tradition of the Church. When the men of those times began to write more frequently, many of these things were written down, but not all. And the writings and the oral teachings continued to be collected, complied and handed on, over many, many generations.

Thus there rose up what's called the Tradition, which includes the Catholic understanding of Sacred Scripture in way that reflects what Christ Himself had shared with His Apostles about how to reconcile disparate commands and teachings, what takes precedence and priority over other things, what remains in force and what may rightly be set aside. That's the Tradition part.

Some men and women have devoted their entire lives to reading, studying, praying over these teachings. And they have contributed further to the Church's understanding of how God wants us to live our Christian lives. Many of these men and women have received the title "Doctor of the Church." This isn't a "doctor" in the sens of an M.D., but a doctor in the sense of a Ph.D. So these are people with a title that equates to "Ph.D. in the Catholic Faith." And some of their writings are a part of the Tradition, as well.

Catholics are very careful to avoid taking just one verse: "Do this; don't do that," and saying, "here! This is what the Bible says!" There's actually a whole context, a background, a larger picture in which to understand that passage or that verse. And if you don't have the context and the larger picture, it would be easy to misinterpret the passage, to miss the meaning. We rely on the authority of Sacred Tradition which we believe passes on to us the information we need to arrive at a full and solid understanding of these verses.
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:53 PM
andros andros is offline
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That's all well and good, but what does it mean where the spiritual rubber hits the road? What is the "larger picture" by which Catholics both adhere to the words of the Christ in Matthew 6 and publicly display the token of their faith on Ash Wednesday?
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:02 PM
BigT BigT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
I'm sorry, but He specifically says to pray in private, in your room. It's right there in the text. And, while maybe you don't need to use the exact words of the Lord's Prayer, He's pretty specific that you shouldn't pray for things specifically. Don't pray to keep your mother safe, to cure some disease, save someone. Just pray to the Lord, since He knows what's in your heart. In contrast to that, people pray for specific things all the time.

I disagree that you couldn't have a communal religion without public prayer. You could get together and study the bible, have a community experience, get communion, give to the poor (anonymously, of course), etc., but save the prayers for when you're home.

Also, giving thanks in front of people is not praying in front of people. It's thanking them.

I'm sorry if I'm coming across as argumentative, but this passage really baffles me.
"Giving thanks" in this context means "thanking God," and any form of talking to God is prayer. It is literally the same thing as what you described when people "pray for meals." Jesus prayed openly many times in Scripture. There are specific commands to pray together. There are other pious people who pray openly. The one thing you don't see is them praying just to be seen by men.

I'm not sure where you got the idea that Jesus said "don't pray for anything specific." That also contradicts specific scriptures that tell you to ask God for something and He will give it to you. The Scripture you quote says not to pray with as many words as you can, thinking that you will be heard because of how many words you use. Yes, God knows what you need before you ask, but that isn't doesn't mean "don't ask." It means "you don't need to go on and on about it, explaining in great detail."

John Mace does a good job in explaining how to interpret Scripture. He looks at all the qualifying remarks in the text. He looks at the context of what is being said. And he looks at other Scriptures to make sure there aren't any contradictions. One Scripture, especially one out of context, can seem to say something it does not. The Bible must be read as a whole, not in parts.

Jesus entire thesis statement (to use a modern term) is what you quoted first: "Do not do your righteousness to be seen by men." That is what his sermon is about. It is not specific instructions that you must go to your room and pray in secret, praying exactly the same prayer.

Oh, and the word "hypocrites" in the Bible is specifically Jesus's word for the religious leaders of his day, who made an ostentatious showing about fasting and praying and such. I'm not sure if this is clear if you are not a Christian. The word hypocrite comes directly from Jesus' word for them.

Finally, while I am not Catholic. I would agree that, if you wear the ashes on your head and go about in public, you seem to be violating the stuff about fasting in private. But, if that quote is accurate, that seems to assuage my problems. If you are not supposed to go out in public with the mark, then that seems fine.

That said, Catholics are not literalists. They may have their own reasoning there, saying that the mark is not really about the fasting or something like that. I do know that they will not get bogged down on the specific words that were said, and instead focus on the meaning behind all of that. And, well, John Mace has that right, too, in what he calls the "gist."

I'm impressed, John Mace. Do you have any Christian background, despite not being a Christian yourself? Maybe a lot of Christian friends you've discussed this sort of thing with, or grew up with it or anything? Or does it just happen to make sense to you to do it this way?

Last edited by BigT; 02-14-2018 at 10:05 PM.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:05 PM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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Am I really the first one that's going to point out that ashes on the forehead isn't a prayer? Ashes on the forehead also isn't fasting.

See, fasting is when you don't eat. Ashes on your forehead is when there's ashes on your forehead. One is a lack of food for a period of time and the other is ashes on your forehead.

A prayer is when you speak or think a message to God, and ashes on your forehead is when there are ashes on your forehead. The first is a message to the creator of the universe and the other is ashes on your forehead.

Do you have any Bible verses you can cite saying people shouldn't have ashes on their foreheads?
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:17 PM
Euphrosyne Euphrosyne is offline
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That's all well and good, but what does it mean where the spiritual rubber hits the road? What is the "larger picture" by which Catholics both adhere to the words of the Christ in Matthew 6 and publicly display the token of their faith on Ash Wednesday?
Thank you for your question, Andros.

If you read the text shortly after the first quoted from Matthew 6:1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. . . "

"5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

The Tradition of the Church teaches Catholics that Jesus' words warn us not so much to avoid specific acts, but to avoid doing these acts with any of several attitudes that offend God. The Catholic understanding is that it's actually a praiseworthy act to attend Church regulalry, which is "practicing righteousness," even though done "in front of others." For you can hardly attend Sunday Mass regularly without being seen by others.

It's the inner attitude, clearly, therefore, that Jesus is addressing. When we pray, or attend Church, or wear ashes on our forehead, or say grace, we are to do these with sincere hearts, acting solely to offer these as acts of worship to God.

It's certainly possible to do these things for other motives, such as to receive attention from others, to curry favor with the pastor, to make a splash within the parish community, to give ourselves a pat on the back, and so on. Jesus warns us that if we think we're fooling God by doing good things for selfish, self-serving reasons, then we're acting like the "hypocrites" mentioned in verse 5.

An every day analogy would be the wife who loves to receive flowers from her husband in token of his love for her and desire to make her happy. But if she learns that he has been giving her flowers to assuage his guilt for having gambled away his paycheck, then his wife won't appreciate those gifts of flowers at all. In fact, she'll be angrier than ever with her husband for double-dealing with her, for being phoney with her.

God hates it when we act phoney with Him, too. And this is the meaning, we believe.

Last edited by Euphrosyne; 02-14-2018 at 10:18 PM.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:21 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Originally Posted by Chessic Sense View Post
Am I really the first one that's going to point out that ashes on the forehead isn't a prayer? Ashes on the forehead also isn't fasting.

See, fasting is when you don't eat. Ashes on your forehead is when there's ashes on your forehead. One is a lack of food for a period of time and the other is ashes on your forehead.

A prayer is when you speak or think a message to God, and ashes on your forehead is when there are ashes on your forehead. The first is a message to the creator of the universe and the other is ashes on your forehead.

Do you have any Bible verses you can cite saying people shouldn't have ashes on their foreheads?
Fasting isn't not eating anything, it's not eating certain things. Giving something up for lent, not eating meat on Fridays, not eating at all (in some cases) or very little on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Many people do these in public. Ashes on your forehead is also a pretty public show of your faith.
Wouldn't these both go against the first verse posted, that you shouldn't practice your righteousness in public, where it can be seen by others.

Besides, the way you stated it, saying a prayer is just sound coming out of your mouth.

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Originally Posted by Euphrosyne View Post
Catholics are very careful to avoid taking just one verse: "Do this; don't do that," and saying, "here! This is what the Bible says!"
I'm pretty sure the opposite of that is what happens.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:29 PM
UDS UDS is offline
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Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
Fasting isn't not eating anything, it's not eating certain things. Giving something up for lent, not eating meat on Fridays, not eating at all (in some cases) or very little on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Many people do these in public. Ashes on your forehead is also a pretty public show of your faith.
Wouldn't these both go against the first verse posted, that you shouldn't practice your righteousness in public, where it can be seen by others.
It's only possible to read the first verse posted in that way if you read it in isolation from the rest of the text of which it forms a part. And, even then, you have to ignore the words in that verse which point to a different reading. Which, as others have pointed out, is not the way Catholics read scripture.
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Old 02-15-2018, 04:13 AM
Euphrosyne Euphrosyne is offline
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Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
Fasting isn't not eating anything, it's not eating certain things. Giving something up for lent, not eating meat on Fridays, not eating at all (in some cases) or very little on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Many people do these in public. Ashes on your forehead is also a pretty public show of your faith.
Wouldn't these both go against the first verse posted, that you shouldn't practice your righteousness in public, where it can be seen by others.

Besides, the way you stated it, saying a prayer is just sound coming out of your mouth.


I'm pretty sure the opposite of that is what happens.
Joey P, I'm sure that there are Catholics who haven't learned, don't understand, or have for one reason or other rejected what the Catholic Church teaches about the way in which we are to read and interpret Sacred Scripture.

Perhaps you know some of these folks, and have discussed the Bible with them.

When Catholics interpret and then discuss the Bible in ways contrary to the official Church teaching, that leads to confusion and misunderstandings.
  #23  
Old 02-15-2018, 04:33 AM
Novelty Bobble Novelty Bobble is online now
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I have to confess I've never seen or heard of that ash thing you mentioned. I had to google but then I'm in the UK so I don't know if it is even a thing here.

As for public prayer. Do what the heck you want as long as it doesn't inconvenience or obligate anyone else, I mean, surely you are doing it for yourself anyway aren't you?
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Old 02-15-2018, 05:09 AM
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This is actually a pretty easy one to answer. The verse fairly obviously means not to be ostentatious about your piety. It's about not showing off your righteousness before others. The imposition of ashes developed during a very spiritually rich time. Attending mass and observing the religious calendar was nearly universal. Wearing ashes was not particularly pious or ostentatious because everyone did it. It became a day of obligation which means that wearing them is not actually displaying your piety, but simply doing the bare minimum. The issue you bring up is that the 21st century West is a relatively spiritually poor culture, so the bare minimum to us seems ostentatious.

Another way of looking at it would be in context of what we are wealthy in - which is material. In 15th century Spain, most people owned one or perhaps two changes of clothes. For us, we have an abundance, so we would say "changing your clothes every other day is a bare minimum for hygiene and decorum." They would say it's an ostentatious display of wealth rubbing it in to others how much you have.

So all this is to say simply that what you regard as an ostentatious display of faith is really only the bare minimum and it's simply because so few people do the bare minimum that it appears to be bragging in some way.
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Old 02-15-2018, 05:18 AM
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You could get together and study the bible, have a community experience, get communion
To a Catholic that's part of prayer, specially the Eucharist.

The idea is that one should do one's good works for the good works and not to get recognition; see also the widow's mite (Luke 21, 1-4; Mark 12, 41-44). How does one visit the incarcerated without anybody realizing? Not possible; even if there weren't guards, the whole point is for the person you're visiting to realize that a stranger cares for him. But someone who called the cameras every time they set foot in the prison wouldn't be doing it for the prisoners, they'd do it because they like watching themselves.

Many of the things you are thinking of as "in public" we think of as "in a group": we pray in a group and as a group, we take Eucharist in and as a community, we are a Church because we are a group. Some of those things we can also do individually; others, not.
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  #26  
Old 02-15-2018, 05:50 AM
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I have to confess I've never seen or heard of that ash thing you mentioned. I had to google but then I'm in the UK so I don't know if it is even a thing here.
I believe in general the CofE doesn't bother with it, although I don't think it's specifically prohibited. I've seen a few people in London with marked foreheads (no, not bindis, ha ha) who presumably belong to other denominations.
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Old 02-15-2018, 07:06 AM
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Do you have any Bible verses you can cite saying people shouldn't have ashes on their foreheads?
See post 5.
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Old 02-15-2018, 07:41 AM
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I believe in general the CofE doesn't bother with it, although I don't think it's specifically prohibited. I've seen a few people in London with marked foreheads (no, not bindis, ha ha) who presumably belong to other denominations.
No, Ash Wednesday is certainly observed among Anglicans. It is not a day of obligation though. Most likely, the person has never seen ashes for two reasons. The first is that the UK isn't particularly observant Christian anymore. Less than 2% of the British population attends a CoE church in a given week. The 'Mosque-Mass' flip will probably happen this year or next year at the latest when more people will be in a mosque in a given week than in a church. So, the reality is there just aren't that many people who are practicing Anglican anymore, so not that many who bother with the liturgical calendar.

The second reason is that the CoE tends to celebrate Ash Wednesday in the evening as opposed to Catholics who celebrate it throughout the day. If you're Anglican, it's likely that you get your ashes at 7 o'clock in the evening and then immediately go home for the evening and wash them off.
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Old 02-15-2018, 07:56 AM
Shodan Shodan is online now
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There's also Matthew 5:16
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Originally Posted by Jesus
Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Note the distinction - I do the good works, but in such a way that I don't get the glory. That goes to the Father in heaven. IOW the message is not that I am good, but that God is good.

When I received the ashes last night, the leader repeated "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return". That's the purpose of ashes - to remind us of who we are, and to make the Lenten journey one of turning away from ourselves and towards Jesus.

It is, and is intended to be, reminiscent of the phrase from the Service of Burial - "ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life thru Christ Jesus our Lord."

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 02-15-2018, 08:03 AM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. I think my problem is twofold:

1. Having been brought up with no religion in my household, I'm unfamiliar with the interpretive reading of the bible. I read something where Jesus Himself says "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen" or "This, then, is how you should pray..." and see an instruction guide. This section seems clearly different than where he says you should cast out your eyes, since that seems much more of an moral lesson rather than a direct instruction. I don't see how the context changes those clear instructions above, but that's obviously on me.
2. Being in the US, my impression is that the loudest Christians are the most literal, and yet they are the ones pushing for prayers before games, in schools, and other public places, and also seem to wear their religion on their sleeves in the most ostentatious way possible. Since those Christians seem to take a literal read of the bible most seriously, this passage seem to make them into hypocrites.

As for Catholics, I understand that their reading of the bible is, in fact, similar to how Jews read their own bible (from my understanding) -- it's not just the bible, but also all the laws and interpretations that come after that from various authority figures. Catholics have never been literalists, so I suppose no specific bible instructions need apply.

Thanks, though, you've given me something to think about. I'll be honest -- I'm not convinced, but can sort-of understand the Christian perspective a little better.
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Old 02-15-2018, 08:08 AM
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There's also Matthew 5:16 Note the distinction - I do the good works, but in such a way that I don't get the glory. That goes to the Father in heaven. IOW the message is not that I am good, but that God is good.

When I received the ashes last night, the leader repeated "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return". That's the purpose of ashes - to remind us of who we are, and to make the Lenten journey one of turning away from ourselves and towards Jesus.

It is, and is intended to be, reminiscent of the phrase from the Service of Burial - "ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life thru Christ Jesus our Lord."

Regards,
Shodan
I honestly don't see how the good works passage is relevant. It seems to say you should be an example to others by doing those works, not by showing something. Others would see you attending to the poor, or what have you, and be inspired to do the same. Wearing ashes is not, to me, any sort of good work.

I think it's fine if your pastor puts the ashes on your head as a reminder of where you've come from and where you're going, but it seems like your next step, after mulling on the meaning, would be to wash it off and anoint your head with oil, so as not to brag about your holiness or whine about your fasting.
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Old 02-15-2018, 08:20 AM
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I honestly don't see how the good works passage is relevant. It seems to say you should be an example to others by doing those works, not by showing something. Others would see you attending to the poor, or what have you, and be inspired to do the same. Wearing ashes is not, to me, any sort of good work.

I think it's fine if your pastor puts the ashes on your head as a reminder of where you've come from and where you're going, but it seems like your next step, after mulling on the meaning, would be to wash it off and anoint your head with oil, so as not to brag about your holiness or whine about your fasting.
That's why we have denominations. Puritans(Congregationalists) or Pentecostals would likely agree with your assessment and that's why they don't tend to get ashes. Ashes are primarily done in the liturgical high churches which take a more nuanced view of scripture. Evangelicals and fundamentalists don't tend to get ashes although in recent years you're seeing more of them do so as they attempt to get back to their roots.
  #33  
Old 02-15-2018, 08:28 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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John Mace does a good job in explaining how to interpret Scripture. He looks at all the qualifying remarks in the text. He looks at the context of what is being said. And he looks at other Scriptures to make sure there aren't any contradictions. One Scripture, especially one out of context, can seem to say something it does not. The Bible must be read as a whole, not in parts.
Thanks for the kind words, although I don't think I did quite all of that. Also, I like to give my explanations mostly in private, and not so as to be seen or praised by others.

Quote:
I'm impressed, John Mace. Do you have any Christian background, despite not being a Christian yourself? Maybe a lot of Christian friends you've discussed this sort of thing with, or grew up with it or anything? Or does it just happen to make sense to you to do it this way?
I am an atheist and have been since I was a teenager, but I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools about 1/2 of my K-12 grades. I like to keep religion out of the public sphere, but I am not militantly anti-religion and I don't approach these types of discussions with any agenda in terms of either dis'ing religion or promoting it.
  #34  
Old 02-15-2018, 09:18 AM
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I think that how modern Christians behave and what Jesus said are perfectly consistent, but the OP has the cause and effect backwards. Modern Christians don't pray ostentatiously in public because of what Jesus said; rather, Jesus said what he did because he knew that it's human nature to want to pray ostentatiously in public.

As an aside, a couple of churches I passed yesterday (both Methodist, for what it's worth): One was advertising drive-through ashes, so you could get your smudge on your face without interrupting your busy day. Another had a sign announcing a potluck at 6:00, followed by Ash Wednesday services at 7:00. It seems to me that both miss the mark. Though, to be fair, they probably think the same about my church's Friday fish fries.
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Old 02-15-2018, 09:39 AM
senoy senoy is online now
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I think that how modern Christians behave and what Jesus said are perfectly consistent, but the OP has the cause and effect backwards. Modern Christians don't pray ostentatiously in public because of what Jesus said; rather, Jesus said what he did because he knew that it's human nature to want to pray ostentatiously in public.

As an aside, a couple of churches I passed yesterday (both Methodist, for what it's worth): One was advertising drive-through ashes, so you could get your smudge on your face without interrupting your busy day. Another had a sign announcing a potluck at 6:00, followed by Ash Wednesday services at 7:00. It seems to me that both miss the mark. Though, to be fair, they probably think the same about my church's Friday fish fries.
Heh, as a United Methodist, I would say that fasting from food is much admired and rarely practiced. I don't even recall the last time I heard a minister mention a food fast. When we are told to abstain, it's generally from negative things, like abstaining from arguing on Facebook or making political points on message boards (I'm not doing that one this year. )These days the emphasis is on 'active Lent' where you do something good rather than abstain from something bad. So, volunteer at a soup kitchen once a week, or visit a nursing home every Saturday, or donate to the local animal shelter, or even call your mom more. This year, our Ash Wednesday service was about the opioid epidemic and what we can do over Lent to help those in recovery, so the conference seems to be pushing that.

As for what we think about Friday fish fries, we find them delicious and we don't think much more about it (I know that I'll be at St. Francis our local Catholic church next Friday for mine. ) I think that as a whole, we've pretty much abandoned any issues we have with Catholicism at least among the liberal side of the church. It's more of a 'You do you and we'll do us' attitude. If I were to go to my pastor and say I wanted to do an old-school no-meat fast, he'd say 'Have at it, I'll be eating burgers though.' Although, I will say that as you go southern and rural, United Methodists can become much more conservative, so there are certainly conservative churches still around, though even then, they tend to be more liberal than the evangelical churches in their areas.
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Old 02-15-2018, 09:47 AM
StrTrkr777 StrTrkr777 is offline
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Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. I think my problem is twofold:

1. Having been brought up with no religion in my household, I'm unfamiliar with the interpretive reading of the bible. I read something where Jesus Himself says "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen" or "This, then, is how you should pray..." and see an instruction guide. This section seems clearly different than where he says you should cast out your eyes, since that seems much more of an moral lesson rather than a direct instruction. I don't see how the context changes those clear instructions above, but that's obviously on me.
2. Being in the US, my impression is that the loudest Christians are the most literal, and yet they are the ones pushing for prayers before games, in schools, and other public places, and also seem to wear their religion on their sleeves in the most ostentatious way possible. Since those Christians seem to take a literal read of the bible most seriously, this passage seem to make them into hypocrites.

As for Catholics, I understand that their reading of the bible is, in fact, similar to how Jews read their own bible (from my understanding) -- it's not just the bible, but also all the laws and interpretations that come after that from various authority figures. Catholics have never been literalists, so I suppose no specific bible instructions need apply.

Thanks, though, you've given me something to think about. I'll be honest -- I'm not convinced, but can sort-of understand the Christian perspective a little better.
Rittersport,

Good questions. And most Christians tend not to try to determine if someone is truly a Christian or just claiming to be one. But as you point out, there are those that make others question with their behavior.

We can never truly know another's heart. But we can get a generally good impression from their behavior.

In Matthew 7:15-20 it says,

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

The meaning of this is, by in large, if you see someone that professes Christianity and then acts like it, you can have a good idea that they are a Christian.

But of course you also have people that want to push their religion on others and force others to obey (forced obedience is of course not obedience at all). I think this is probably the biggest issue between believers and the "militant" atheist.

Christianity is a personal religion and the church is a family of those believers. We do have different denominations because there are some differing beliefs as to how to go about our worship of God. But largely the Christian denominations use the same Bible.

The way I see prayer in my studies of the Bible is talking to God. So like the example earlier, if you feel comfortable talking about it to your mom, when said to God is prayer. When a kid keeps begging their parents for something, the parents have to make a judgement call. Is it something the child needs? Is it merely a want? Is it potentially harmful for the child? Is it a later, not now kind of thing. Prayer also helps us know what is important to us. If we care about someone dying of cancer, we will talk to God about the person and the situation. Sure God already knows what we need and want, but He allows us to help ourselves deal with issues and to come to Him for requests.

We are not supposed to make a huge deal of it. We are not supposed to put on a big show and make big pronouncements. We are to just talk to God, like we are talking to our parent.

Now, He is the creator of the world, so we are not to be flippant with Him, but he also made us to enjoy humor, so we can be ourselves.

The bible is not a recipe book that has to be followed to a T or the results will not be any good. It is a guide book. A love letter to humans. It is a book that says God the creator of the Universe cared so much about you that He gave His son to die for your sins.

Now, I know that the arguement goes, well God created sin, so if He had not created sin, then He would not have had to prepare a solution for sin.

But my arguement is, for those that have had children, did you go into it believing that they would follow your every command, that they would never stray from where you wanted them to be? Surely you knew they would not live up to your every ideal. But yet, you had them anyway. Sure they tick us off. Sure they get under our skin. But we love them because they are a part of us. And we love them inspite of the fact that they do not do what we desire always. We love them and when they reach an age where they know what love is and tell us they love us, that makes it all worth it.

God really wants the same for us. He wants us to do what is right. He wants us to love others. And He wants us to love Him.
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  #37  
Old 02-15-2018, 09:49 AM
Shodan Shodan is online now
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I honestly don't see how the good works passage is relevant. It seems to say you should be an example to others by doing those works, not by showing something. Others would see you attending to the poor, or what have you, and be inspired to do the same. Wearing ashes is not, to me, any sort of good work.
Prayer is considered a good work. It is like fasting - a spiritual good work. Acts of charity and justice are temporal good works.

What Jesus said in the passages you mention isn't the only thing Jesus said about prayer. Cherry-picking passages is certainly a problem, but it can be a problem from non-Christians as well. Context is important.

Regards,
Shodan
  #38  
Old 02-15-2018, 09:58 AM
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I went to Ash Wednesday services last night. The scripture above was actually the Gospel that was proclaimed. But also realize that Jesus instructed his followers to proclaim the good news to the ends of the earth. How are we supposed to do that without praying and doing good works in public for people to see.

The scripture from Matthew is intended to admonish people who are behaving piously in public in order to be seen and though of as holy and pious. Jesus is telling his flock that there is no reward in store for those who do their praying in public to be seen, or who make big donations in order to be recognized as a benefactor. Instead we should undertake these things in private between ourselves and God, that what we do "for show" doesn't count, but what's in our heart that matters.

Remember also that Jesus indicates elsewhere that Heaven is not a tiered reward system, that everyone is rewarded equally with eternal life in the presence of God, so it's not like praying in private is going to get you a better car to tool around in while you're in heaven or anything like that.
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  #39  
Old 02-15-2018, 09:58 AM
Corry El Corry El is online now
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As for Catholics, I understand that their reading of the bible is, in fact, similar to how Jews read their own bible (from my understanding) -- it's not just the bible, but also all the laws and interpretations that come after that from various authority figures. Catholics have never been literalists, so I suppose no specific bible instructions need apply.

Thanks, though, you've given me something to think about. I'll be honest -- I'm not convinced, but can sort-of understand the Christian perspective a little better.
Most discussions of Christianity, even when they stay serious and away from gratuitous Christianity bashing (this thread's not bad on that scale) basically assume Christianity=Protestantism. This isn't entirely unreasonable in US context given that Protestants are more numerous and it's a basically Protestant culture still (whether non/anti-religious or Catholics or non-Christians like it or not, as often they don't).

But it does become somewhat self contradictory on the example of wearing ashes in public, which is largely associated with Catholics in US society. Literal v non-literal is not the only distinction. In fact most Protestants weren't and aren't more literalist than contemporary Catholics at a given time. The basic original difference which remains to a significant degree (though Catholics have moved closer to the Protestant position over the centuries) is the role of teaching by the Church v interpreting the scriptures for oneself.

IOW you can start a new Protestant sect any time which re-interprets the Gospels, on a reasonably arguable basis perhaps*, as a need to keep your Christianity secret to not be a hypocrite. Catholicism has a large body of teaching which has considered this and basically all the other issues where the Gospels vary or arguably contradict one another and come up with answers. They are the product of smart and learned, though flawed obviously, humans studying all aspects. And they only change slowly over time, typically. And in this case that answer is not that wearing ashes makes you a hypocrite according the Matthew's Gospel, nor does participating in a public prayer.

You can accept Catholic teaching or not. And of course one can point to cases where even lots of Catholics don't (in practice) accept parts of Catholic teaching. But that's the basic system in Catholicism. If troubled by the supposed contradiction between Jesus' teaching about hypocrisy and wearing ashes, you'd look to how traditional teaching deals with it, and what traditional teaching says would also be part of further debate with other lay people. A debate with lay people just poring over what the Bible says is more the tendency in Protestantism.

*not very reasonable IMO. Perhaps most particularly in Matthew, Jesus inveighed against the hypocrisy He saw in contemporary Jewish society and religious life (as an example of a universal principle, not a criticism of His own society as worse than some other human society). But He did not define hypocrisy as 'any piety that might become known to others'. The idea that Christianity must stay out of sight to be 'non hypocritical' is mainly a modern anti-Christian belief.

Last edited by Corry El; 02-15-2018 at 09:59 AM.
  #40  
Old 02-15-2018, 09:59 AM
Euphrosyne Euphrosyne is offline
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Rittersport,

Good questions. And most Christians tend not to try to determine if someone is truly a Christian or just claiming to be one. But as you point out, there are those that make others question with their behavior.

We can never truly know another's heart. But we can get a generally good impression from their behavior.

In Matthew 7:15-20 it says,

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

The meaning of this is, by in large, if you see someone that professes Christianity and then acts like it, you can have a good idea that they are a Christian.

But of course you also have people that want to push their religion on others and force others to obey (forced obedience is of course not obedience at all). I think this is probably the biggest issue between believers and the "militant" atheist.

Christianity is a personal religion and the church is a family of those believers. We do have different denominations because there are some differing beliefs as to how to go about our worship of God. But largely the Christian denominations use the same Bible.

The way I see prayer in my studies of the Bible is talking to God. So like the example earlier, if you feel comfortable talking about it to your mom, when said to God is prayer. When a kid keeps begging their parents for something, the parents have to make a judgement call. Is it something the child needs? Is it merely a want? Is it potentially harmful for the child? Is it a later, not now kind of thing. Prayer also helps us know what is important to us. If we care about someone dying of cancer, we will talk to God about the person and the situation. Sure God already knows what we need and want, but He allows us to help ourselves deal with issues and to come to Him for requests.

We are not supposed to make a huge deal of it. We are not supposed to put on a big show and make big pronouncements. We are to just talk to God, like we are talking to our parent.

Now, He is the creator of the world, so we are not to be flippant with Him, but he also made us to enjoy humor, so we can be ourselves.

The bible is not a recipe book that has to be followed to a T or the results will not be any good. It is a guide book. A love letter to humans. It is a book that says God the creator of the Universe cared so much about you that He gave His son to die for your sins.

Now, I know that the arguement goes, well God created sin, so if He had not created sin, then He would not have had to prepare a solution for sin.

But my arguement is, for those that have had children, did you go into it believing that they would follow your every command, that they would never stray from where you wanted them to be? Surely you knew they would not live up to your every ideal. But yet, you had them anyway. Sure they tick us off. Sure they get under our skin. But we love them because they are a part of us. And we love them inspite of the fact that they do not do what we desire always. We love them and when they reach an age where they know what love is and tell us they love us, that makes it all worth it.

God really wants the same for us. He wants us to do what is right. He wants us to love others. And He wants us to love Him.
-------------------------------------------------

"Now, I know that the arguement goes, well God created sin, so if He had not created sin, then He would not have had to prepare a solution for sin."

At least one Christian denomination would not accept the idea that "God created sin."

God created free will - in both man and the angels. God's purpose in doing this was to have a free exchange of love - a union of the wills - between Himself and angels, and between Himself and mankind.

Such love and union is not possible unless both parties are free to choose it, or are free to choose to reject it.

And both angels and men in their turn chose to use their wills to reject the love of God by disobeying Him.

That was the Original sin.

And all subsequent that sin entered the world, was made possible by original sin.

Although God foreknew and foresaw the sins of man, He did not create them.

But because He foresaw sin, He was able to ordain a solution to man's sin.
  #41  
Old 02-15-2018, 11:52 AM
StrTrkr777 StrTrkr777 is offline
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I was not really arguing that God created sin, just that often when the subject of God sending His sone to die for sins is brought up, some will suggest that if God had not created sin, then He would not have had to make a way out of it.

I was just trying to be preemptive of that arguement, but did not want to get into a disertation of how you cannot have good without evil or any of those ideas.
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  #42  
Old 02-15-2018, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
IOW, it's ignored because most people aren't aware of it or don't care. I'd guess mostly the former. IME, most Catholics only know what their priest tells them on Sunday. So each week they get a few sentences directly from the bible and a 5-10 minute homily of which it's quality is totally dependent on the priest.
Since this passage is read in Mass on Ash Wednesday, it's not one we Catholics are not aware of! Ashes are a reminder to me of my own need to repent, and "remember, man, you are dust and unto dust you shall return". It's certainly not be proclaiming how great I am in front of anyone else! And Catholics do practice Bible study and lectio divina, we just also rely on sacred tradition.
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Old 02-15-2018, 06:41 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
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RitterSport, do you think like this when you see someone wearing a cross necklace? What about a priest or nun wearing their religious garb? Really, how is this any different?

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Originally Posted by Novelty Bobble View Post
I have to confess I've never seen or heard of that ash thing you mentioned. I had to google but then I'm in the UK so I don't know if it is even a thing here.
You must not live near many Catholics then -- it's not restricted to the U.S. I'm almost certain that Catholics in the U.K. would get ashes.
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Old 02-15-2018, 07:33 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by Novelty Bobble View Post
I have to confess I've never seen or heard of that ash thing you mentioned. I had to google but then I'm in the UK so I don't know if it is even a thing here.
From the wikipedia article on Ash Wednesday (emphasis added):

Quote:
Ash Wednesday is observed by many Western Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Old Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics,[note 1] and some Baptists.[1]
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Old 02-16-2018, 05:48 AM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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Originally Posted by Guinastasia View Post
RitterSport, do you think like this when you see someone wearing a cross necklace? What about a priest or nun wearing their religious garb? Really, how is this any different?
...
Well, yes, I mentioned wearing crosses right in the OP. How about cross tattoos? As a Jew, Jesus would be very opposed to getting a tattoo at all, and on top of that, it seems like a pretty ostentatious display. The Vatican and the Pope's garb is also amazingly ostentatious.

I'm not trying to tell Catholics or other Christians how to practice, I'm trying to understand how they resolve this particular seeming conflict, while getting quite literal about other sections. I mention above that it's really my problem, having not grown up with any sort of religious tradition.
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Old 02-16-2018, 08:08 AM
Corry El Corry El is online now
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
Well, yes, I mentioned wearing crosses right in the OP. How about cross tattoos? As a Jew, Jesus would be very opposed to getting a tattoo at all, and on top of that, it seems like a pretty ostentatious display. The Vatican and the Pope's garb is also amazingly ostentatious.

I'm not trying to tell Catholics or other Christians how to practice, I'm trying to understand how they resolve this particular seeming conflict, while getting quite literal about other sections. I mention above that it's really my problem, having not grown up with any sort of religious tradition.
Seems you're veering off in a couple of new directions with that though. Ashes aren't tattoo's or expensive trappings as I guess you're partly referring to with 'Pope's amazingly ostentatious garb'.

But in general I think you're caught in a common Catch 22. There's no real reason from your POV to learn in any depth about Catholicism. But then if you comment, it's not based on much knowledge. Same would go for Christianity generally, with again also the common implicit assumption Christianity=Protestantism (or 'it's all the same to me', but that's back to the Catch 22) when discussing Catholicism.

But I think actually it's been answered why wearing ashes is not what discussed in 'ostentatious display' in Matthew. That passage and a number similar are interpreted, in the religion Catholicism*, as speaking of the falsity of conscious hypocrisy. And I think it's pretty clear even to a non-Christian reading. In the same section the example is given of a hypocrite praying something like 'thank you God I'm not a sinner like this tax collector'. If you wear ashes as a sign of 'ashes to ashes' which you believe, that's not hypocrisy. And I think that's actually a pretty common sense interpretation that doesn't even require a lot of study. Not the hardest case IOW.

*not exclusively, Protestant practice varies from quite like Catholicism including with ashes, to totally different but in very 'conservative' (to outsiders, or true and originalist as those Protestants see it) ways, to Protestants who say they don't even believe in God but are still part of a sect. But the problem of switching back and forth between what 'Catholics or Christians' do is it isn't even two discrete things (or a few counting Catholic, Protestant, all Eastern Churches together or separately). Protestantism varies almost with limit. Catholicism isn't one exact thing at the believer level, but it's a lot less varied comparatively.
  #47  
Old 02-16-2018, 08:12 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
Well, yes, I mentioned wearing crosses right in the OP. How about cross tattoos? As a Jew, Jesus would be very opposed to getting a tattoo at all, and on top of that, it seems like a pretty ostentatious display. The Vatican and the Pope's garb is also amazingly ostentatious.
So after reading this I image-Googled "the pope." Most of the pictures that came up were of the current pope, wearing plain white robes and a white skullcap—not particularly ostentatious. What were you thinking of?

As for the Vatican being ostentatious, the definition that came up when I googled "ostentatious" was "characterized by vulgar or pretentious display; designed to impress or attract notice." Part of that's an artistic judgment—is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel "vulgar and pretentious" or is it Great Art? And part of it goes to motive—why was it designed that way? To glorify God, or to glorify or draw attention to a human being or human institution?

Quote:
I'm not trying to tell Catholics or other Christians how to practice, I'm trying to understand how they resolve this particular seeming conflict, while getting quite literal about other sections.
The one I've wondered about w.r.t Catholics is how they reconcile calling their priests "Father" with the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:9 ("And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.") Although, taken completely literally, this would seem to forbid using the word "father" about one's biological human father, too.
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Old 02-16-2018, 08:49 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
Well, yes, I mentioned wearing crosses right in the OP. How about cross tattoos? As a Jew, Jesus would be very opposed to getting a tattoo at all...
Jesus is the new Covenant. There were many things that Jesus did that offended traditional Jewish laws and customs.
  #49  
Old 02-16-2018, 09:28 AM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Jesus is the new Covenant. There were many things that Jesus did that offended traditional Jewish laws and customs.
Sort of, except when he says he's not overthrowing Jewish laws and customs.

Thudlow Boink, if you Google "pope in hat" you'll see some pretty ostentatious displays.

Corry El, the way I would read Matthew (which is obviously wrong) would certainly allow a priest to put the ashes on your head in order to remind you of your mortality (or for whatever reason). However, once that was done, my read would require the person with the ashes to wash them off and look chipper, so as not to seem whiny while fasting.

But, Catholics do their own thing, which I understand. They rely on many things in addition to the words in the bible. Jews do something similar, as far as I'm aware, adding rules and interpretations as time goes on.

As I mentioned earlier, the loudest Christians here in the US also seem to be the most literal and most in violation of the letter and spirit of that passage (Prosperity Gospel, bible thumpers on TV and radio, trying to get prayers spoken at school and before school events. The ashes thing just reminded me to ask about many Christian activities in the context of Matthew.
  #50  
Old 02-16-2018, 10:16 AM
gigi gigi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
Well, yes, I mentioned wearing crosses right in the OP. How about cross tattoos? As a Jew, Jesus would be very opposed to getting a tattoo at all, and on top of that, it seems like a pretty ostentatious display. The Vatican and the Pope's garb is also amazingly ostentatious.
The "garb" is usually worn for Mass or other public ceremonies to the glory of God. The priest wears a special fancy chasuble for Mass because the Eucharist is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ and the miracle of His Body and Blood He gave us. It's a feast, a celebration, and you wear your best clothes to a banquet.

I've seen people harp on the Church using fancy vessels for the Body and Blood, and I think, it's the Body and Blood of Christ. What is more fitting than the best materials we have to hold such a thing?

I agree with you about tattoos, as much as I would like a "permanent" cross on myself, I don't like that it would change and wear over time. But I don't think those who get them are wrong to do so.
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