My Prayer

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After the dust settles
After I have mettled
In things I shouldn’t have
For all the things I didn’t do
And all the things left unsaid
Or worse all the things I shouldn’t have said
Let there be
The only thing that is left
To repair my heart
To repair the human race
To repair all that is broken
And protect what is not
To ask God for mercy
To ask for an easier life
Or the will to survive this difficult one
Please God
I pace
And then
All that’s left
Is
Prayer

How the Devil Attempts to have Power

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Many things come to mind when one considers the devil or a demonic presence. What has been told time and again and is demonstrated by the mediums of art, play, and books is this: the devil is an evil being, the most evil, and hell bent on tempting humans away from their path and away from God. In our daily lives the devil is there to tempt us in everything we do and we must resist him. Temptation that leads to sin is unquestionably an act of the devil. Often, the devil preys on humans to fall and descend into hell the way he did. The devil wants to create an army of sinners one at a time the way he did with Joseph, the soldier, in The Soldier’s Tale. Often depicted as a red, horned man with a pitchfork and surrounded by demons the devil is terrifying, but what is equally terrifying is the devil’s power to tempt and push us away from what we were meant to do. The devil is terrifying and a huge negative influence in the lives of mortals because he can read our thoughts, twisting what’s inside of us and turning us away from both God and good, plunging us into his evil darkness. Despite all this, there is hope against Satan. The devil’s power is only as strong as one allows it to be, as is demonstrated by Antony who fights off the devil countless times in Athanasius.

Through the texts and art mediums examined, one can see that devil behaves similarly with humans and with God in his attempts to spread sin and evil, therefore creating a unified vision of what it means to be Satan. The devil acts deceptively, aggressively and malevolently across all mediums studied, always acting with the goal of triumphing in evil.
In all mediums examined, the devil shows that he has acts on an agenda of spreading evil and sin, attempting to distance people God and turning them over to a life of suffering and sinful behavior instead. For example, Joseph, the soldier in the play The Soldier’s Tale, is unable to relinquish himself from the persistence of the devil. Joseph’s life prior to his encounters with the devil was honest and good – he received leave from serving with the military to see his mother and his fiancé, two important people in his life. After falling to the devil and giving up things that were important to him, Joseph has one more chance and gives in to the devil’s ultimate end game; he walks away with the devil and into a life of evil and sin.

Observing how St. Thomas, Joseph, God, and Antony deal with the devil one can see that devil will always try with all his might to push humans into dark places. However, humans show that it is their responsibility to push back hard against the devil to gain an upper hand and triumph over him. For example, St. Antony of Egypt was able to take down the devil through his strong will and belief in God. Through these strengths, he was also able to purge demons from other people as well. The devil acted deceptively and lied directly to St. Antony, trying to steal his life away from God. He was aggressive through his actions and tried to send hyenas to rip St. Antony apart. St. Antony calls on his strong will and belief in God and says to the devil, “If you have received authority over me, I am prepared to be devoured by you. But if you are sent by demons, waste no time in retreating, for I am a servant of Christ.” He kept the devil from causing him to stray from his own path in life, and more importantly from straying from God.

The relationship with God and humans is vastly different than that of the relationship with humans and the devil because God will always prevail against the devil. Although they are opposite beings, the devil cannot conquer God the way he can conquer and overcome a human. God is an entity that stands on His own before the devil and humans do not hold the power that God has to banish the devil. We can banish the devil as humans, but only through God and not on our own. God has absolute power to do so as both St. Thomas and the Qur’an explain.
We are mortal and capable of sin, and the devil influences the gravity of our sins. God is not capable of sin, and therefore cannot be tempted by the devil. Humans are a curious case because their skills against the devil will determine the extent of his dominion against them. There are two examples with Joseph and Antony as St. Thomas doesn’t have that direct experience with the devil. Does he then understand the devil less and poorly since he hasn’t defeated him? What kind of relationship does one gain by creating theories without direct experience? Augustine had great experience with sin so he could repent and become even stronger through his error and recognizing that error. St. Catherine doesn’t have this direct experience so her view of sin is very different. Direct contact with the devil is a stronger example of overcoming because it gives a real life instant of fighting great evil. In all these examples we see the devil portrayed equally as a malevolent evil being attempting to turn these humans to a life of suffering and utter despair.

Through The Soldier’s Tale, Athanastuis, the Qur’an, and St. Thomas of Aquinas we are presented with several different ways to approach the devil, and we are shown that the devil has a different experience with God as opposed to with humans. St. Antony of Egypt and Joseph the soldier had different endings to their stories as Joseph is unable to ward off the devil and follows him into the darkness. St. Antony was able through his deep faith, to ward off the devil as he tempted Antony as well as being able to purge other people of demons. Truly, all of these versions of the devil have many common themes and present a unified vision of who the devil really is, but the key distinction is the devil’s power over humans compared to God. These interactions are very different, but the huge point to draw is that the devil is only as powerful as one allows him to be. God was able to dismiss the devil to hell, and Antony was able to ward off the devil. Joseph was overwhelmed and taken. St. Thomas had rigid rules and theories about the devil, but I strongly believe because of his deep faith St. Thomas would be able to ward off the devil.

In The Soldier’s Tale, we get a female depiction of the devil (although the devil is male, but the actress is a woman) that is unique to the stereotypical devil previously described. The actress graces the stage in an enchanting way. Enchanting is a rather strange way to think of the devil, but perhaps that is part of the devil’s temptation that works to his advantage in this play and in all situations. The devil in this play is alluring and inviting, until the devil’s true intentions are revealed. Then, the devil becomes increasingly scary and his relationship with Joseph is more toxic and Joseph’s ability to resist washes away. Although Joseph recognizes what he is up against, he cannot in the end, defeat the devil. It is as if he is worn out, and just quits. In the devil’s cunning speech and movements, his end goal for Joseph is reached. First he convinces Joseph to part with his fiddle, but the greater prize but actual problem the devil has caused for Joseph is when he receives a little red book about how to become wealthy that damages him. Every time we think the devil is done with Joseph, he comes back stronger. One on one Joseph stands no chance we learn. Internally, it isn’t available to us everything Joseph is thinking. The devil is all about mind games so it’s extremely hard once the devil gets into Joseph’s mind. The problem is that Joseph doesn’t appear strong or resilient against the devil and weakens as the play goes on.

In St. Antony’s story, the devil never stands a chance against the mighty Antony. With songs, words, and actions Antony becomes famous for how he deals with the greatest evil. His place with God is strong, and it is this relationship that allows Antony great power over the devil. He says he is with Christ and that is enough to scare the devil off. The devil is equally determined in both the play and in Athanasius but in Athanasius the man prevails against the devil because he doesn’t allow the devil to gain strength. There is a power scene of the devil trying to break through, literally. “The demons as if breaking through the buildings four and seeming to enter them changed in the forms of beasts and reptiles.” (page 38) After more beasts appear, Antony seems to them and they dissipate. Antony is a solitary man and that is illustrated by his 20 years in seclusion, but does not ever allow the devil even a chance of overcoming him. He is maimed by animals the devil spurs but God heals him. He thwarts demons left and right and soon is asked to purge others of demons. Something striking about Antony is his great calm through all this. In the paintings, his face is calm and he is experiencing encounters that are a huge nightmare. Somehow he can completely reign in his fear, which is one of the things the devil feeds on.

The Qur’an depicts the devil as a disobedient angel that God throws to hell. There is not room for such behavior and the devil and his demons set about to tempt Adam and Eve after the devil is created. God says to the devil, “Get out from this, disgraced and expelled. If any other then follow you – Hell I will fill with all of you.” God is not messing around and down the devil goes. The devil then succeeds in his evil act of tempting them, but God does not punish the pair, not in the way of the Christian tradition. The Qur’an says, “He duped them.” The God of the Qur’an does not slap them with original sin. Here the relationship between the humans and God is different. It has to be different, but that doesn’t mean we cannot create one vision of the devil. God has to be able to control the devil because of the devil could overthrown God that would be the end of the world. While St. Thomas disproved that anyone can be greater than God using logic, it would also be the end of humankind as we know it if the devil could gather such strength. The Qur’an has the devil at the will of God.
St. Thomas of Aquinas depicts the devil as instant damnation. Through rigid rules about angels we get a sense of the devil and how he operates but the relationship to God and humans is different here. God cannot be overcome by the devil because then the infinite (God) would be replaced by the finite and that is impossible according to Thomas. “But for any creature to be God’s equal does not fall under apprehension, because it implies a contradiction; for if the finite equals the infinite, then it would itself be infinite. Therefore an angel could not desire to be as God.” (St. Thomas) The devil and his natural evil are put under the microscope by Thomas and it is clear that the devil not only can but will tempt humans. Since so much focus is on angels in this reading, it is strange to think of the devil as a fallen angel. The devil’s relationship to other demons is also interesting and should be considered. St. Thomas did not have a direct relationship with the Devil the way other mediums had. In this way, his experience is different and the rules he created are not as strong. That direct access through meeting the devil and facing him are missing here. St. Thomas has all these rules in place based on knowledge and beliefs he has. His relation with the devil is completely second hand, and that is a relationship greatly lacking in substance.

In conclusion, the devil’s evil presence is there for both humans and God to contend with, and a unified version of the devil can be created because the devil always has one goal which is to cause great harm. Despite appearing different across the different forms of medium, the devil is insistent upon wreaking havoc wherever he goes, regardless of how he appears or the nature of his relationships. With God, the devil stands no chance because as Thomas of Aquinas proved with logic one cannot be greater than God because then the finite would become the infinite. With humans the devil is only as strong as you let him get and we see that contrasted with Joseph and St. Antony. He fights off the devil countless times in remarkable ways, such as against animals set upon him and the devil trying to trick him by being friendly towards him. Antony is so strong that he never allows the devil to gain strength over him. St. Thomas of Aquinas has no direct experience with the devil therefore his relationship with the devil is not that same as all the people and God, who have had direct experiences with the devil. Joseph was tempted by the devil, but could not overcome the evil the way St. Antony of Egypt could. Joseph was a simple man, who tried but the devil polluted his mind and he is weak. This weakness ends in his walking off with the devil in quite a sad scene.
Taking into account the painting with St. Antony, one can see what the devil is trying to accomplish. Using all these different mediums, one version of the devil can be created. The devil is a monster that tries with works and actions to turn one from the light and plunge them into darkness. While the relationships vary across the stories we encounter, we always encounter the same devil. He is cunning, swift, cruel, and persistent in his burning need to tempt and cause mayhem. The key to remember is that the devil can be overtaken and he will lose if he is not given the power. Once one is strong in their convictions, we as humans can use all our wits to overcome the devil and the evil he presents, not matter the form.

God and Pain: Theories

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Demea’s argument that humans are miserable and believing in God somehow alleviates that misery is a simply false argument. Human pain is not alleviated because of a belief in God; it is a combination of reality and mindset, not blind reverence, which accounts for pain decrease. It is impossible that God is the sole reason that your pain diminishes. By painting these pictures of what the world appears like to Demea, he manages to explain his side. Demea begins his argument by explaining in short that the world is a miserable place. This is something even Philo agrees with him about and they go on to give a truly desolate, depressing description of the earth. “Remorse, shame, anguish, rage, disappointment, anxiety, fear, dejection, despair: who has ever passed through life without cruel in roads from these tormentors?” (Hume 61) So is the world really a horrific place where one’s only joy can stem from believing in God, because he helps to take the pain away?

Even the design theory, the theory that if something (a machine) were made that it had to have a designer, is taken into account saying that we were made a put on this earth but happiness was not part of the things we were equipped with, according to Demea. Demea and Philo go to a discussion about how even in nature one is the prey and one predator, the prey always in a state of fear, keeping in mind that entire connection between suffering and how God affects it. Another quite strong argument by Philo is “we are terrified not bribed to the continuance of our existence” (Hume 62). It is not a bribe says Philo that drives us but an internal fear. Fear is not that drives the average person, joy, love, and happiness can just as well be factors.

Philo takes it a step further and says “Man is the greatest enemy of man” (Hume 60). Basically Philo and Demea take a pessimistic look at the world giving many examples leading up to Man being man’s worst enemy is Philo’s argument against Demea. He believes man can easily kill and tame the animals and rise up against all other animals as the superior being. It is our actions toward other humans which Philo raises the biggest eye. We are each other demise. Something that holds some truth, is the plausible argument, man is man’s own enemy, feasible no? It is a strong point even if as a whole the main argument that believing in God is the only way to suffer less in this wretched world. The world is not so wretched, as the two philosophers are only too quick to claim. They neglect to mention happiness, love, pleasure, satisfaction, and humor which all also exist, making it easy to see the world is not that dismal place which they claim it to be.

After Cleanthes does not have much to say, Philo strikes with penetrating questions. He discusses God and his actions with humans. He says “…assert the moral belief attributes to the Deity, his justice benevolence, mercy, and rectitude, to be in the same nature with these virtues in human creatures…” (Hume 63) He continues by explaining how God has the choice of happiness or wisdom, but although he has control he uses his power incorrectly, when he could allow all-good. Philo even asks in the discussion “In what respect, the, do his benevolence and mercy of men?” (Hume 63) Philo is almost pleading looking for a reason why. Cleanthes speaks up and says that Philo is denying his “true intentions”. He points out, much like in this argument that “for every one vexation which we meet with, upon computation, a hundred enjoyments” (Hume 65). Cleanthes is hitting the nail on the head; Philo and Demea have neglected the positive side of life.

It is this side of life, our experience and beliefs and well as reactions to
physical pain as to where the pain comes and goes from. Our aches and pains draw from a source, which is in debate and should not be. Seeing things one sided is dangerous because you neglect the other side (in this case the happiness that exists in life). Like believing the world is flat, not being open minded can lead to a lock on our realm of human intellect. It is not if you believe in God, you world will be less wretched, but rather while believing in God you gain hope and things fall into a balance. One that does not exist with its counterpart; pain and pleasure cannot be single. Thus pain is simply extremely complicated, but its basics is that on action and reaction for a balance in the universe do we feel pain – not connected to our pious beliefs.

What is the purpose of evil? My ponderings.

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The problem Leibniz discusses in the Theodicy is God being connected directly to the evil that exists on earth. He figures ways to argue against the belief – if god made humans which make evil, then god is the “source for that evil”. My belief is the prospect of evil on earth cannot be rationally connected to the existence of God. Free will is what humans have and are behind evil on earth based upon these choices. Even if God is all-knowing that simply means he knows you will choose wrong; he does not choose wrong for you. This “prospect” is an ongoing battle which is highly in the enormous problem evil presents. Since time began, man has been questioning the Lord and his role in the existence of evil. Such questions as the one Leibniz asks, like why if God is “all good” does evil exist? Why would God create evil? Because in the real world, evil is accompanied by a greater good, he answers.
An explanation one can better swallow is that which in the human mind it is a psychological reaction to assign the blame when inconceivable situations of veil arise. “God can prevent the sin of intelligent creatures; but he does not do so, and rather contributes to it by his concurrence and by the opportunities which he brings about, although he has a perfect knowledge of it.” (Leibniz pg4) God created man and bestowed upon him his own intellect and free will completely independent of the god makes people evil theory. Something Leibniz understands.
According to the argument “perfect world” in the best of all world’s, evil would not present. “Whoever makes things in which there is evil… does not choose the best.” (Leibniz pg 1) Because God interfered and permitted evil, that the “best world” cannot exist for God has done wrong. However, Leibniz points out that people eventually have a greater good from a God who made them with these imperfections. People have the ability to do good. They ignore that good, and furthermore believe to blame God for their oversight in judgment. I believe that just because evil exists, does not mean God put it there directly. God does not want people to suffer or for wars to plague our world. It is in this light that he created the world, and we as its inhabitants select for ourselves what kind of world we want. In is in our hands not God’s, whether we help or hinder the act of evil.
Another theory to disprove that God is behind evil. “Whoever produces all that is real in a thing is its cause. God produces all that is real in a thing. Hence, God is the cause of sin.” (Leibniz pg5) However logical this may sound, simple deducing skills and taking apart the argument and my backing Leibniz words, showing the prosyollogism is incorrect. “A creature in causing sin is a defective being, how errors and evil inclinations are born.” Leibniz gave a response showing evil stems not from God. That basically said humans do receive enough good to overcome evil, and saying God thus is the reason for sin. (Leibniz pg5) To reiterate, humans receive not only evil but good as well. Therefore the blame for evil rests solely in each individual, who knows right from wrong. God is not a programmed being looking to instill evil in all things. We have options and it’s when we ignore logical explanation and pin the blame, that we lose sight of who God is. God made man. God made original sin. God didn’t make people’s main function sin. The option is there. The human initiative is that other piece that Leibniz shows. A piece, I find essential.
We have seen strong evidence on the point of statements, proving to us that God inflicts the world with unspeakable evils. We also learn many plausible reasons why. If God is in charge of every wire in every human being, he must be behind the wires that pulse evil throughout the earth. Leibniz clearly has shown that people have the choice and can see issues as black or white. We are given choices, not sin. We can think critically about the consequences of our actions. God does not poke us with the cattle prod of evil. It is simple: God created man and in doing so gave man all minds with cognitive thinking. It is from the human brain, not the brain of God that evil plots in the world are developed. It is unnerving to think that God would use us like pawns and play games. Rather we are given the good to overcome evil. It is and remains a question of do I or don’t I?

God and Science intertwined <3

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During our talk on Nicholas Copernicus, we tried to grasp the scientific approach he took and in doing so wondered whether it was divine science or human science he immersed himself in. There are a lot of diagrams at the end of the reading that we did not talk about at all, but we were busy working on the science behind the science. (I will explore a diagram later in this protokoll.) We took an approach of figuring out why Copernicus composed his problems and ideas in this fashion and this led to an interesting conversation. I believe his thinking was a blend of the two fields suggested. Also, in this protokoll I want to discuss that division between science and philosophy that we couldn’t escape as well as well as a concept that Ethan brought forward at the end of class. Finally, I would like to demonstrate how Copernicus analyzed his Order of the Heavenly Spheres as an example of how unique his approach to science was. The idea Ethan brought that was touched upon was this concept of believing in something you cannot see, which is something that we are doing when we acknowledge certain scientific theories such as his. I want to examine how believing in scientific theories is similar to a belief in God, as you cannot see him either. God shows up a lot in our texts at Shimer, and I want to explore a unique way of putting forward one’s belief in the Lord.

Using Science to discover something that I see as this: something has a hypothesis and after the experiment is conducted evidence that proves or disproves a theory is evaluated. The theory is then adjusted or possibly discarded. I think of visual evidence for theories behind the science of something but that is not always the case such as gravity. In the case of Copernicus, there are things he believes where these kind of thought processes are present. Because Copernicus is writing his theories to the Pope, I am interested more in the belief of what you cannot see for the sake of my argument. The example given in class was you can drop a pencil and it won’t fly to the side of this classroom, it will fall straight down. So, that disproves that the room is moving although other theories we know of prove the world is actually moving. I wonder if Copernicus is willing to believe in what he cannot see in terms of science because he believes in God. That is a powerful belief, grounded in blind faith. An argument I have heard very often in relation to God is – if God is real, give me proof he exists. Does this set a certain precedent for science or am I way off base with linking these concepts? Science while you cannot see it sometimes comes with theory and math to back up a claim. While not directly visible, things such as the Earth moving can be proven. So I ask, where does the notion God come from or rather where does God come from if we cannot see him? My Catholic upbringing and continued presence in the church gives me an answer that isn’t the one I seek for this purpose. In our many of our readings God is believed in (or one is told to believe) and when questioned by a person, one is demonized, exiled, killed, or threatened with damnation. This protokoll is not calling for converting, it merely asks, is the blind faith necessary to believe in God similar to the way one thinks of theories such as the Earth being able to move?

 

Furthermore Copernicus links God as a presupposed being important in his theories, so can one believe in his theories but remove God from them? The discussion of the heavens or the discussion of things being spheres, could those things still be in tact while taking God away? I wonder how close believing in things we cannot see like gravity which is not in this reading connects with how one believes in the divine. Would Copernicus have different concepts (or perhaps weaker or stronger ones) if not trying to avoid offending the figure of the Catholic Church? What I am also interested in is one can deny gravity, but gravity will continue to exist without being accepted. Does God still exist if someone denies his existence? Perhaps God exists to some, even if others refute God. But it is clear with my stream of thoughts that one cannot treat God and science together as things to “believe in”.
To understand Copernicus even more, I believe we have to look at some of his work step by step. While he used the work of Plato and Ptolemy, those works were used to demonstrate how those scientists’ theories were wrong. Copernicus had a great appreciation for science that can be seen in his writing. He goes to great lengths to express what he is passionate about, and takes about Ptolemy’s theory step by step, very methodically. What he came up with after the analysis is the modern understanding of the planets that we have them today. One of Ptolemy’s theories is that if there were an empty space in space that nature would fill it. Using the planets Mercury and Venus, math, and logic Copernicus proves that this idea is wrong. He, in fact, disproves many of Ptolemy’s ideas by doing the calculations that he presents and showing that what Ptolemy believes cannot be so. Considering angles, orbits, rotation, and the paths given by Ptolemy, Copernicus is able to calculate his own measurements that still hold true today.

What is interesting is that Copernicus did not have a telescope to prove when Venus would be visible, just calculations. Galileo actually used Copernicus’s theories and with the invention of the telescope could take all these concepts that Copernicus created and actually see he was correct in his theories. He took the layout of the planets, the measurements of where Mercury and Venus were in the sky, and saw that Copernicus was right in his work. Perhaps also not being able to see his work because of lack of a telescope was blind faith. He did have facts and figures in front of him that were consistent with what scientists after him found. In conclusion, Copernicus used Divine and natural science, conceptual ideas and data to create new theories. His belief in God may have strengthened his ability to accept certain scientific notions, but the passion he had for science was also a huge driving point in his study. He never openly insults other scientists, he does one better by proving their theories wrong by using their own work, and I think that is a stroke of genius.

 

The idea of his work being more conceptual than gathering data was presented in class and is interesting because I challenge that idea. I believe that it was beneficial to think of big picture things such as planets and the heavens. I believe while there is a lot of conceptual thinking I believe that using others or his own data also went into the work that shaped his theories. We briefly went to the next reading to compare Galileo and Copernicus. This shows me that the blending of divine and human science helped Copernicus, but I have not read all of the other reading to say whether that reading was similar. What I can say is that Galileo had a very direct scientific method that he boasted about with his telescope. This use of technology and setting up conditions versus the data that Copernicus works with is a way to think of scientific thinkers as using different methods in the name of furthering science. Copernicus took from two kinds of scientific thought to create his theories. They were strengthened through this way of thinking. Believing in God may also have strengthened his ability to believe in theories one cannot readily see.

 

 

Keeping the Faith during Pain

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Questions brewing in my mind
Why can you hear my thoughts
Invasions are not of my faith
But you seem to know it all
You’ve been here for so long my lord!
You’ve been here long before us all
You may think you know everything
And control it too
But does that make you strong?
You’re up above you’re everywhere
In everything I do
So when I do such evil things
Is that just testing too?
The black and white have blended
My faith has been suspended
Your was once transcended
But what am I do make?
There’s souls suffering through the night
And I cannot save them from their sorrow
I wonder then will you save them
Or will they just dissolve in pain?
I’ll get a call tomorrow

Or the most terrifiying thing
Has entered in my thoughts
Dear God above
Have I ever actually known you at all?

I beg you for your help
And I know that you come through
But in that moment of great pain
What is a girl to do?

Individual Responsibility in The Acts of the Apostles

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Throughout our various Bible readings, I was excited with the agency I now have to question this text in class. With an academic reading that examines political meaning, historical accounts, and women’s absence, I can say things I found problematic or toxic without my faith being called out for daring to ask such questions. In our discussion, we considered the miracles of Peter and Paul (far more impressive than those of Jesus), the notion of an “anti-miracle”, Pentecost as a fantasy of pure community, the stoning of Stephen, speeches given by Peter and others, and the rituals of circumcision and baptism. There is a much bigger theme that I see in the Acts of the Apostles which is individual responsibility for being saved and living in accordance with God. This idea takes our talking points to a different level. The “anti-miracle” (as coined in class) is a good example of an individual needing to take responsibility for what they have done. While the transgression committed seemed small, the person punished (first the husband, then his wife) hasn’t wronged the people, but God specifically. Although both the husband and wife collapse and die in a bizarre way, I do not follow the analysis that they died to protect the utopian world that Pentecost brings to light in Acts of the Apostles. I think their sudden death represents the demand of responsibility for actions in a way that is unique to the New Testament.

The stoning of Stephen also was puzzling, because I don’t thinking talking against the world they are creating warrants death. I am also not a ruthless Roman tyrant, and I believe God should decide who lives and dies. It is murder otherwise. But, I digress. Stephen needed to take responsibility for his words. His speech, while historical is also mocking the approach of spreading Christianity. That is why he must be stoned. These three deaths are different from accounts of the Old Testament because you are not a people that can be saved because you are a part of a clan created by God himself. You are not Moses’ people or descendants of Abraham. You now have a unique responsibility to want God in your heart, not just go through the motions. In my reading, this notion of personal responsibility has been reflected in The Iliad and Aeneid but the lines of individual responsibility cannot be there because the men in those texts are in this war for the greater good of the people, rather than the individual. We have the battle for land and glory compared to the battle for Christianity, and in Acts a single person is commonly singled out to prove a point. The motive is also different between these texts. Bloody war for the glory or spreading the word of Christian life are such different concepts but it is what impact they have on the individual that I am concerned with. In contrast to the epics of Homer and Virgil, you are not (if you are truly with God) behaving in good faith for the sake of your people. It is your sole responsibility to seek salvation for yourself. (You should also show others the way to God like Peter and Paul did although to what extent I am not clear.)

The rituals of circumcision and baptism are actions for the individual to be cleansed and be more able to walk with God. Baptism, although often done in massive groups, is still about an individual cleansing of the soul. The imagery of the baptism seems hectic in Acts, but it is effective to bring one closer to God. The Holy Spirit entering someone and cleansing them in that way, without baptism, is also on a one-to-one basis. These two occurrences are for the benefit of who experiences them, not for the masses. In the Old Testament, we had many examples of things affecting one person and in turn having a ripple effect on the rest of humanity. Eve, eating from the forbidden tree, is the first example of an individual act impacting everyone that came afterwards. Circumcision and the “circumcised believers” are a huge issue for the individuality theory I have put forth, because it speaks to only half the individuals out there – men. Men are the great leaders and heroes of all of the big stories in Acts, and The Bible in general. In class, we spoke about this perpetual patriarchal problem, and we decided women had to have been there for things to take place the way they did. Women had to agree to go with the men as the journey unfolded. In Luke, there are more vivid accounts of women, as individuals that are important to understand. One that sticks out to me is the woman weeping all over Jesus’ feet as she washes them. For showing Jesus kindness, she is absolved of her sins.

I would even argue that the comparison between Acts and a united Athens in Thucydides is the same general idea, with one being alliance to the state and one being alliance to God. The question about following god vs. following the law is prevalent throughout Acts and it’s sort of funny to me that the apostles are happy to be persecuted the same way that Perpetua is thrilled for her death. This strange wish for death or compliance in imprisonment illustrates a personal level of accountability they willingly take. This is special because these people believe they are in the right and are willing to handle the consequences of staying with their faith. While odd and somewhat disturbing, both are walking well with God because they accept death and imprisonment as a part of maintaining faith. This is because God has changed since the Old Testament. God is no longer giving us a king to follow, or is angry and wants to commit a genocide that Moses has to advise him against doing in the Old Testament. The God of the New Testament is working through Jesus and his disciples, and it is as if he is handing off the reins to each person to be responsible to finding and keeping the faith.

There remains one (maybe more) large problem in the theory I have put forth. If the individual’s responsibility for their own salvation holds true, why was Jesus, an individual responsible for saving humanity? Why did we need Jesus to die, if individuals are responsible for their faith? Are we then back to the Old Testament but instead of people of Abraham we are now people of Christ? If individuals are responsible for their faith, why did Jesus have to die for us to maintain it? Maybe we are now able to be individuals because of Christ’s sacrifice. Now that he has died for our sins, we can begin to be responsible for ourselves.