Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Questions about Questions

In a conversation with a couple of young people recently, they opened up their minds to me asking some questions that had been bothering them. This conversation made me feel proud of them, for they have an insatiable thirst for truth. It also made me realize that in the midst of the whirlwind of ideas and information, their path is not simple at all. Here is a sample of the kind of questions they asked.
  1. According to Da Vinci Code, Mary Magdalene had a special place in Jesus' life. How could Jesus have a relationship with such a woman?
  2. Are Muslims the children of Ismael?
  3. Did Mary, Jesus' mother, resurrect as some Christians believe?
  4. Was the Garden of Eden in Africa?
  5. Why doesn't the creation story in Genesis speak about the creation of Dinosaurs?
  6. Evolution or creation?
When questions came one after another, I realized that what they needed was not answers to these specific questions, but some guidelines to evaluate their own questions. Questions such as the following need to be asked about their questions:
  1. How important is the subject matter of this question?
  2. Is this question about a fact or about someone's belief?
  3. Is the subject matter of this question to be understood literally or metaphorically?
  4. How are the key concepts in the question understood?
Let us look at each of these questions with examples:
1. How important is the subject matter?
Some questions will be treated more important than others when we consider their importance in our life. For example, consider the question of whether Muslims are the children of Ismael. How important is this in our life? What if Muslims are the children of Ismael? What if they are not? How does it affect our life? This question might be of importance to some Muslims for their self-identity. But for non-Muslims this question may not be of much importance.
2. Is this question about a fact or a belief?
A fact is supported by evidences, and a belief is supported only by the people who believe it. Even if a belief is believed by a lot of people, it still remains a belief. The truth of a fact can be verified easily by looking for its evidences. A belief can neither be true nor false. But a belief can be classified into useful, harmful, or harmless according to its effect in human life. A belief can also be classified into important and unimportant based on how many people hold the belief. Regarding the question of the resurrection of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we need to realize that this is not a fact but a belief. Weather Mary resurrected or not cannot be proved with evidences. It is a belief believed by a lot of people in the world. It doesn't seem to be very useful or harmful for the believers or others. Obviously it is a harmless belief. 
3. Is the subject matter of this question to be understood literally or metaphorically?
Failure to distinguish between literal and metaphorical can be a major cause of confusion. We see several instances of a statement by Jesus taken literally by people such as his own disciples, Nicodemus, and the woman of Samaria. The question regarding the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis is taken literally when seen as a historical account. We can't use it as an evidence to argue for creation or evolution. Similarly, the story of the Garden of Eden cannot be seen as a historical event.

4. How are the key concepts in the question understood?
Often the key words in a question are understood differently by the one who asks the question and the one who is asked. For example, they both may not have the same idea of who Mary Magdalene was. They need to arrive at a consensus of who Mary magdalene was before asking any further questions. Similarly, when talking and arguing over concepts like God and Heaven, a speaker and listener need to make sure that they mean the same things by these terms.


Tony Daniel said...

With regards to the first question, regarding Mary Magdalene-
The Da Vinci's Code by Dan Brown is a fiction, where the author has taken certain liberties to tell a story. Da Vinci's Code is neither fact nor history; Period.

Historians now agree that Mary of Magdalene is so name because she was the most important member of the apostles. There is a clue in Luke 8:2 where she is spoken of first, refers to her as "Mary the one CALLED Magdalene", roughly, Mary the foremost. Here "Magdalene is clearly a title conferred upon her. (No, it not like friends calling each other by the name of the town they come from in Kerala).

In the days of Jesus people thought that illness was caused by demons. Mary the Magdalene was perhaps cured of 7 illnesses by Jesus, hence the reference to the 7 demons being cast out from her.

[[The Aramaic word Migdala from Hebrew root Gadal means " 'become' important or foremost) In Hebrew, the word is spelled mgdl and migdol. The title "Magdalene" implies greatness, exaltation, elevation, and pre-eminence.]]

Yes, Mary the Magdalene's name was maligned by patriarchal ruling environment. Now current research and archeological evidences are clearing her name. In Orthodoxy she is now a Saint.

Was she married to Jesus? There is no factual, anecdotal or historical evidence for this. However as a consequence of the mixing prevalent pagan stories with the life of Christ, yes, it can be argued in the affirmative, but that would be an exaggeration. We have to wait and see.

Ref: Mary Magdalene, the First Apostle The Struggle for Authority by Ann Graham Brock

George Varughese said...

Evolution or Creation?
Origin of this universe theory, creation and cosmos theory, evaluation theory, big- bang theory. Carl Sagan says, The universe is all there it is, and all there it was, and all there it will be. Four views of origin, one is there was nothing one time and some thing come, that is big-bag theory. Another view was there was all ways there, that cosmos theory.Third view is God bring in to being. Last one is Evolution theory. Evolution is man's attempt to draft a naturalistic explanation of the origin of all that we see in the universe, an explanation which excludes God's intervention. Evelution says death is necessary, but the bible says death come as a result of man's sin. Evolution says that random change occurrences are the dynamic forces that drive evolution. Bible says God carefully planned by God. Evolution changes in life from over a period of time. Bible says creation is a finished complete work of God and one kind of life comes only from the same kind of life. According to the scientific law, the law of biogenesis, life cannot come from non-life. That is the conclusion of all known scientific observation.

George Varughese said...

With regard to the fifth question. Why doesn't the creation story in Genesis speak about the creation of Dinosaurs? Bible speak God created wild animals on sixth day. Gen.1:25.Noah's flood some of the wild animals like Dinosaurs destroyed and completely wiped out at the flood. Therefore they could not continue to reproduce after their kind. This we can see in the archeological evidence.