The Archangels

Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction

gravriilmixailrafail“You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

“And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

“Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily by known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they come among us. Thus, Michael means ‘Who is like God?’; Gabriel is ‘The Strength of God’; and Raphael is ‘God’s Remedy.’

“Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.

“So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

“Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.”

From a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope, Second Reading, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, for September 29th.

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99 Responses to The Archangels

  1. To begin the New Evangelization go to: http://www.treeoflifetheology.org

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  2. johnhenrycn says:

    Darn, I slept in and didn’t make it to Mass for the Feast of The Archangels this morning. A couple of points:
    (a) There are seven archangels by some (Catholic) accounts, and I wonder why the other four are not mentioned in today’s liturgy.
    (b) Whilst the etymology of ‘angel’ does relate to messengers, I also wonder about these statements:

    “You should be aware that the word ‘angel’ denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message.”

    I don’t understand the meaning of the first two sentences, which are meant to be read together (I think). As for the third sentence, if it means that angels are only called such when they “deliver some message“, that’s not the Catholic theology I was taught by Fr Paul Voisin CR in R.C.I.A. ten years ago, nor does it correspond to the Bible or to the Catholic Catechism; and I don’t think it’s necessary to mention (although I shall) our Guardian Angels, Jacob’s wrestling with angel(s), Jesus’ mention of 12 legions of angels, or the many mentions of Angels in the book of Revelations, none of whom are postal employees.

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  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Elvis gave a letter to a postman (not an angel) once, but the letter came back:

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  4. toadspittle says:

    All proofs or disproofs that we tender
    Of His existence are returned
    unopened to the sender.

    (Auden. “Friday’s Child.” Returned by angels, presumably.)


    (I think this ancient hymn pre-dates the N.O.)

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  5. kathleen says:

    Thanks JH – your comments always make me smile. 🙂

    I’m no expert on ‘angels’, but I am convinced that their intervention in the lives of men is far more widespread than is commonly believed. IOW, their ‘function’ as messengers, protectors and guides leading us towards God is being fulfilled all the time, although only a tiny percentage of these interventions is on record.

    Many saints had close relationships with their Guardian Angels – lower down the ranks than Archangels 😉 – and many ordinary people (like me) have had some extraordinary experiences, or narrow escapes from harm, that might well have been due to the intervention of these heavenly guardians each soul is gifted with on life’s pilgrimage.

    To know a bit more about angels you could look into this lengthy link Roger gave on a very similar article to the one above a few years ago:
    http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/areopagite_13_heavenly_hierarchy.htm
    In fact Gertrude also gave some interesting information, if you scroll down the article to the comment section below:
    https://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/saints-michael-gabriel-and-raphael-archangels/

    Happy reading!

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  6. Roger says:

    Creation visible and invisible. Creation not Evolution. The existence of Angels and Demons that is
    non material Will’s, intelligence and Free choice. An existence beyond and superior to the visible material Creation.
    Look at the Universe and consider what this must mean! Consider the vastness of the material Universe and what this must mean for the non material!.
    Many years ago a friend was involved in a seance group. This group was in contact with an intelligence. That intelligence was non corporal yet knew events, circumstances in their lives and their families and friends. Not just past knowledge but current knowledge of an intimate nature. In other words a non material intelligence with a knowledge of a material world.
    That non material intelligence would not answer questions about God and said that it was Blind.
    Spiritual Blindness is the state of the Damned.
    The existence of non material intelligence and spiritual blindess is the world that St John refers to the Light (of Christ) and a world of Darkness.
    In Our Day we see an Apostacy from this Light because of materialist arguments.
    The Angelic hierachy? What does this mean? Angels when they function as messagers between God and Man? Well what else do Angels do?
    The Angel of Portugal appeared at Fatima. This means that the country/nation Portugal is of God! is there an Angel Europa? Is Europa a country/nation recognised by God with its own Angel?
    These are the questions not being asked. What is of God and what is not of God? What is of God has His Angels. What is not of God has its demons.

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  7. Adrian Meades says:

    Great to hear that folk still believe in angels. Top stuff!

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  8. johnhenrycn says:

    Hi, Adrian. Long time no see. Fr Richard John Neuhaus (RIP), a fellow Catholic convert, and a great and good compatriot of mine to boot, has this to say about angels:

    “The days in the intensive care unit was an experience familiar to anyone who has ever been there. I had never been there before, except to visit others, and that is nothing like being there. I was struck by my disposition of utter passivity. There was absolutely nothing I could do or wanted to do, except to lie there and let them do whatever they do in such a place. Indifferent to time, I neither knew nor cared whether it was night or day. I recall counting sixteen different tubes and other things plugged into my body before I stopped counting. From time to time, it seemed several times an hour but surely could not have been, a strange young woman with a brown wool hat and heavy gold necklace would come by and whisper, “I want blood.” She stuck in a needle and took blood, smiling mysteriously all the time. She could have said she wanted to cut off my right leg and I would probably have raised no objection. So busy was I with just being there, with one thought that was my one and every thought: “I almost died.”

    “Astonishment and passivity were strangely mixed. I confess to having thought of myself as a person very much in charge. Friends, meaning, I trust, no unkindness, had sometimes described me as a control freak. Now there was nothing to be done, nothing that I could do, except be there. Here comes a most curious part of the story, and readers may make of it what they will. Much has been written on “near death” experiences. I had always been skeptical of such tales. I am much less so now. I am inclined to think of it as a “near life” experience, and it happened this way.

    “It was a couple of days after leaving intensive care, and it was night. I could hear patients in adjoining rooms moaning and mumbling and occasionally calling out; the surrounding medical machines were pumping and sucking and bleeping as usual. Then, all of a sudden, I was jerked into an utterly lucid state of awareness. I was sitting up in the bed staring intently into the darkness, although in fact I knew my body was lying flat. What I was staring at was a color like blue and purple, and vaguely in the form of hanging drapery. By the drapery were two “presences.” I saw them and yet did not see them, and I cannot explain that. But they were there, and I knew that I was not tied to the bed. I was able and prepared to get up and go somewhere. And then the presences one or both of them, I do not know spoke. This I heard clearly. Not in an ordinary way, for I cannot remember anything about the voice. But the message was beyond mistaking: “Everything is ready now.”

    “That was it. They waited for a while, maybe for a minute. Whether they were waiting for a response or just waiting to see whether I had received the message, I don’t know. “Everything is ready now.” It was not in the form of a command, nor was it an invitation to do anything. They were just letting me know. Then they were gone, and I was again flat on my back with my mind racing wildly. I had an iron resolve to determine right then and there what had happened. Had I been dreaming? In no way. I was then and was now as lucid and wide awake as I had ever been in my life.

    “Tell me that I was dreaming and you might as well tell me that I was dreaming that I wrote the sentence before this one. Testing my awareness, I pinched myself hard, and ran through the multiplication tables, and recalled the birth dates of my seven brothers and sisters, and my wits were vibrantly about me. The whole thing had lasted three or four minutes, maybe less. I resolved at that moment that I would never, never let anything dissuade me from the reality of what had happened. Knowing myself, I expected I would later be inclined to doubt it. It was an experience as real, as powerfully confirmed by the senses, as anything I have ever known. That was some seven years ago. Since then I have not had a moment in which I was seriously tempted to think it did not happen. It happened as surely, as simply, as undeniably as it happened that I tied my shoelaces this morning. I could as well deny the one as deny the other, and were I to deny either I would surely be mad.”
    http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2009/01/born-toward-dying
    ___
    Of course, that’s only one man’s testimony, Adrian, and not knowing anything about your putative powers of ratiocination, as compared to Neuhaus’s, it’s perhaps unfair of me to give yours short shrift; but having been his admirer and avid reader for many years, I do not hesitate in accepting RJN’s corroboration of the angelic presence in our lives.

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  9. toadspittle says:

    “Creation not Evolution.”

    Look at dog, or sheep or cattle, breeding, Roger.
    Look at the evolution of motor cars, and the AIDs virus.
    Look at the wild life in Australia, cut off from the rest of the planet for millions of years.
    …Then tell us why you don’t believe in evolution.

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  10. toadspittle says:

    “The Angel of Portugal appeared at Fatima. “
    It would be interesting to consider The Angels of Saudi Arabia, or of Iraq, or Monarco, or the People’s Republic of the Congo.
    Quite a growth industry in angels nowadays, isn’t there? – the Angels of Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, and so on. (Hard luck, Scotland.)
    And what about the Angel of Israel?
    What, indeed? Not a job any angel would sensibly give its wings for.

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  11. johnhenrycn says:

    To quote, Karl Popper, your favourite philosopher, Toad:
    “Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.”

    So give your skeptical bones a well deserved rest.

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  12. Brother Burrito says:

    Angels are the goodly Spirits that communicate with Man.

    If one has the ears to hear, they all communicate with us, and their message is:

    GOD IS IN CHARGE!

    I consider as angels those fundamental forces and laws that keep the universe in being and function. I suggest naming the angels of gravity, strong and weak nuclear force, and electromagnetism for starters, but also the angels of justice, and mercy, and healing, among many others.

    There are also the fallen angels, which work to the detriment of creation and humanity: pride, anger, suspicion, terror etc. They seem to be enjoying free reign at the moment.

    They are on a leash however, and it is all part of God’s plan, though we don’t understand how.

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  13. toadspittle says:

    No rest for the wicked, JH.

    “They seem to be enjoying free reign at the moment.” That is a very good pun.
    I wish I’d written it. (You, will, Toad – you will.)

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  14. toadspittle says:

    In fact, as I seem to be a bit out of favour on CP&S right now, (can’t think why!) I’ll say again how much I appreciate being given free reign on here, and – if I have achieve nothing else but provoking JH to quote Popper* – my time has not been wasted.

    *and to read “The Open Society And Its Enemies,” of course.

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  15. Adrian Meades says:

    Thanks John H, although I’m not really sure what Fr. Neuhaus’s experience is telling us.

    “By the drapery were two “presences.” I saw them and yet did not see them, and I cannot explain that”
    “This I heard clearly. Not in an ordinary way, for I cannot remember anything about the voice”

    A man waking in the middle of the night, only just returned from intensive care? Having suffered physical and mental trauma? All kinds of drugs and treatments?
    Why conclude that this is good evidence for the existence of ‘angels’, of all things? Sorry, but I don’t get it.

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  16. johnhenrycn says:

    “Sorry, but I don’t get it.”
    I should qualify my last remark addressed to you, Adrian. The reason you don’t get it hasn’t got a lot to do with brainpower, but does have a lot to do with soulpower. The non-religious don’t have what it takes to accept the existence of the supranatural. I think they can acquire that sixth sense if they want to, but they don’t want to; or at least they don’t want to work at it by praying, studying Holy Scripture, going to church, etc. I’ve only had one unmistakeable religious experience in my life. Even had I not, I know God is, but I can’t explain how and why I know He does in a way that an atheist or agnostic can understand and accept. It’s arrogant for atheists and agnostics to conclude God doesn’t exist simply because believers cannot provide empirical proof of His existence. It’s like trying to explain the concept of colour to someone blind since birth. Anyway, arguments between believers and non-believers hardly ever reach a satisfactory conclusion, and I don’t know why either side bothers, which is not to say that evangilization is useless, but only to say that unless a believer is trying to persuade a somewhat receptive audience, his efforts are unlikely to bear fruit.

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  17. toadspittle says:

    “It’s arrogant for atheists and agnostics to conclude God doesn’t exist simply because believers cannot provide empirical proof of His existence.”
    Atheists may well conclude that, Agnostics don’t.
    It’s equally arrogant to suggest God does exist, on the available evidence. We just don’t know, is what Agnostics say.
    Of course that’s only my opinion.
    Putting Agnostics and Atheists in the same bag is the same as putting Christians and Muslims in the same bag.
    Also, in my opinion.

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  18. johnhenrycn says:

    I’d sooner be a Muslim or a Mormon than an atheist or an agnostic. The former two intuit “on the available evidence”the presence of God in their lives, albeit in a very primitive, childish way, but the latter two do not. Agnostics are just lazy atheists and they belong “in the same bag”.

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  19. toadspittle says:

    Don’t talk tripe, JH. You might as well put Catholics and Calvinists in the same bag.
    …All Christians, aren’t they? Calvinists are just lazy Catholics, I suppose. Or contrariwise.
    And I dare you to read “What I Believe,” by Anthony Kenny, and then come on here and tell us what you thought.
    But I bet you won’t. Might make you think.

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  20. toadspittle says:

    “Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite,” someone once very truly said.
    …And yet, one thing we all KNOW – don’t we – Mormons, Muslims, Calvinists and Catholics – That Our Redeemer liveth. Well, how do you, and your friends above, know?
    …And know with such certainty that you will cut off the heads of those with whom you disagree.
    Though, to be honest, I haven’t heard of Mormons going that far, yet. And, yes, it’s currently out of fashion with Calvinists and Catholics, too. (Has it struck anyone else that this current laxity in the decapitation department might be the reason for falling attendance in Western churches? Let’s get back to the good old traditions!)

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  21. Adrian Meades says:

    John, what I ‘didn’t get’ was why the visions were evidence of angels in particular. Another religious or ‘supranatural’ minded person would have interpreted the situation very differently, even if both persons possess ‘soulpower’.
    And if these visions and voices are the realities perceived with the use of ‘soulpower’, where does that leave those hallucinations associated with schizophrenia?

    “I think they can acquire that sixth sense if they want to, but they don’t want to”
    This is a totally ridiculous comment, as who would really want to miss out on having a ‘sixth sense’. But the truth of the matter is that you need to believe this to be true, as otherwise the Catholic position on unbelievers would be fall into great difficulties.

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  22. toadspittle says:

    “I think they can acquire that sixth sense if they want to, but they don’t want to”

    Ridiculous? Well, Adrian – it all depends on what that sixth sense is, doesn’t it? If it’s the sense that enables people to believe anything that comes into their heads, or anything they read in a “holy” book – then I’m content to muddle along without it.

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  23. The Raven says:

    “…who would really want to miss out on having a ‘sixth sense’.” [sic]

    Someone whose a priori beliefs require them to dismiss the idea, Adrian; your own argument cuts both ways.

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  24. Adrian Meades says:

    Again, it is convenient for you to think this as to support the Catholic position on unbelievers, but your argument just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
    Firstly, myself and other nonbelievers have nothing to lose, but everything to gain from being able to see into this other dimension. It such a thing exists, of course we want to know more about it.
    Secondly, it appears we all grow up with superstitious notions, fears of ghosts and suchlike. Don’t we all feel sadness as the magical fantasies of childhood fade through reasoning as we grow older and more experienced? So you see, my a priori beliefs support the existence of a ‘supranatural’

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  25. The Raven says:

    I see that you don’t wish to apply the logic of your argument to your own beliefs in this matter, Adrian.

    Your second paragraph just makes the point in bolder terms: “magical fantasies”, “superstitious notions”, “ghosts”.

    Has it not occurred to you that I’m going to point out that you are making a category error?

    And your a priori belief that we are talking about “magical fantasies” etc is going to psychologically dispose you to reject any intimations of the angelic that you may experience, keep you whistling in the dark that it is all a “superstitious notion” or suchlike.

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  26. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    I wasn’t saying that I (and others) automatically reject unexplained phenomena as “magical fantasies “and “superstitious notions”, but was referring to how – as we get older – alternative, reasoned explanations tend to supersede the supernatural ones.
    It would be far more interesting if you put as much effort into responding to my points as you do in dodging them.

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  27. The Raven says:

    I think that you are failing to understand your category error, Adrian: you seem to be writing about unexplained things that our reason eventually informs us are the result of natural and not supernatural phenomena; whereas we are talking about experiences that reasoned explanations attribute to the divine.

    Your post suggests that you believe that a “reasoned explanation” can only be a materialist interpretation (which only goes to reinforce the point that I made in the first place about your a-priori assumptions underlying your views on this matter).

    And I have responded to your points – I have pointed out that they are nothing more than bold assertions on your part. You haven’t exactly argued your case.

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  28. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    “Your post suggests that you believe that a “reasoned explanation” can only be a materialist interpretation (which only goes to reinforce the point that I made in the first place about your a-priori assumptions underlying your views on this matter)”
    Not at all. What I was saying is that these things we believed to be ‘supernatural’ or ‘magical’ turned out to be explainable by materialistic interpretation. I don’t see why you are failing to understand this.

    “we are talking about experiences that reasoned explanations attribute to the divine”
    But as I pointed out above (and these points were not addressed by yourself or JH), reasoned explanations of Fr. Neuhaus’s experience would seem much more likely to lie with a neuroscientist, rather than a theologian.

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  29. johnhenrycn says:

    Adrian Meades (at home?)
    Any chance you’re related to Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced ‘Bouquet’)? And where is your home ? 😉

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  30. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    Hyacinth Bucket???
    My home is in East Sussex, John. Where’s yours?
    Any chance of you responding to the points I made about Fr. Neuhaus’s recollections?

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  31. The Raven says:

    “What I was saying is that these things we believed to be ‘supernatural’ or ‘magical’ turned out to be explainable by materialistic interpretation.”

    Who is “we”? And I have already pointed out that your examples demonstrated a category error on your part.

    “But as I pointed out above (and these points were not addressed by yourself or JH), reasoned explanations of Fr. Neuhaus’s experience would seem much more likely to lie with a neuroscientist, rather than a theologian.”

    You really don’t seem to got have the hang of not allowing your a priori assumptions to master your analysis of the situation.

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  32. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    “would seem much more likely” being my point.
    If a schizophrenic, or a habitual LSD user were to tell you that they had a similar experience to Fr. Neuhaus’s, would you consider it more likely that they were hallucinating, or that they had experienced ‘real angels’?

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  33. toadspittle says:

    Adrian: You are a nice boy. Don’t beat your brains out. No point. When you are my age, it doesn’t matter. Either you believe, or you don’t. Go to night clubs and misbehave, and feel rotten in the morning.
    What the heck? By lunchtime you will be OK again.
    …Or get yourself some dogs to walk. (But you are a bit too young for that, I suspect.) Old time is still a-flying. Go for the rosebuds, while you may!

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  34. toadspittle says:

    Adrian may well live in Surbition (my local geography is a bit shaky these days)- where the British idea of Jesus comes from.
    … bit of a hippie. Long hair. Beard. Weird clothes. No respectable job. No life insurance.
    But – if J.C. showed up at our suburban front door – we wouldn’t tell him to get a proper job, and get his hair cut, would we ?
    No, we’d be down on our knees to him.
    Topping chap.
    Quite right, too.

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  35. johnhenrycn says:

    “My home is in East Sussex, John. Where’s yours?”

    Upper Dicker or Lower Dicker by any chance, Adrian? But I shouldn’t laugh. My home is not entirely unadjacent to a small hamlet (population <9) called Punkeydoodles Corners.

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  36. The Raven says:

    “If a schizophrenic, or a habitual LSD user …”

    Unless you have information that I lack, Adrian, we aren’t talking about that in Fr Neuhaus’s case, so we don’t need to venture down that particular rabbit hole.

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  37. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    Fr Neuhaus had woken one night, shortly after being released from intensive care, and all the mental and physical trauma, and the drugs and treatments that were administered – drugs still being given, I’d assume – and in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar people coming and going. And he says:
    “By the drapery were two “presences.” I saw them and yet did not see them, and I cannot explain that”
    “This I heard clearly. Not in an ordinary way, for I cannot remember anything about the voice”

    Why is he experience anymore likely to be an encounter with ‘real angels’ than that of a schizophrenic, or a habitual LSD user? That was my point (as if you didn’t know)

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  38. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    John, funny as your jokes may be (??), I’d be very pleased if you would rejoin the discussion about Father Neuhaus’s hospital experience.
    btw I live near Stonegate, which is quite a long way from the Dickers.

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  39. toadspittle says:

    Congratulations to all involved on an exceptionally funny set of comments on here so far. (Except for Toad’s, of course)
    Well, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Having a bit of fun?
    Raven’s last humdinger to Adrian made Toad laugh until the tears ran down his little green legs. “Venturing down rabbit holes,” indeed.
    Freud would revolve in his grave, if he were still alive today, when he read that. (No, Raven, it’s just a cliché – like “…A fish to water,”. or, “Plain as the nose on your pikestaff)

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  40. johnhenrycn says:

    I have no more to say about Fr Neuhaus’s eyewitness account. I believe it happened as he said, that it was a transcendent one unexplainable in material terms, and that – with respect – your vision is tunnel vision unable to conceive of, let alone consider non-material existence. You, dear fellow, are the one who is intellectually handicapped, not me, although I’m no genius, that’s for sure.

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  41. The Raven says:

    Oh, Toad, I thought that you would have liked that particular reference to Alice in Wonderland!

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  42. toadspittle says:

    Loved it, Raven.
    My theory is that the theme of the world’s two greatest novels is Carrol’s (Dodgson’s) way of dealing with his loss of belief in God, after Darwin. Only a theory, though. Like gravity.

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  43. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    “I have no more to say about Fr Neuhaus’s eyewitness account. I believe it happened as he said, that it was a transcendent one unexplainable in material terms” So there!
    I’ll take it that Raven is of same opinion too, shall I?

    “with respect – your vision is tunnel vision unable to conceive of, let alone consider non-material existence” If so, then how am I able to accept Christ? It makes no sense!

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  44. johnhenrycn says:

    But we have eyewitness testimony for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You don’t need to talk about non-material reality for those events. Fr Neuhaus’s experiences are in a different category. Let’s not confuse the two. Which is not to say that Neuhaus’s eyewitness testimony about an angelic presence is non-credible – just that it’s on a different plane of experience than that of Jesus’ first disciples. That you choose to discount the eyewitness accounts of Neuhaus and of Christ’s disciples is your atheistic prerogative, but it is beyond your competence to say those accounts are untrue. To accept eyewitness testimony is a rational way of explaining reality, provided one is not credulous, which adult Christians who have spent a lot of time reading and pondering the Bible are not.

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  45. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    I have already given several reasons as to why Father Neuhaus’s interpretation of his experience might not be very reliable, of which both yourself and Raven have declined to tackle.
    Regarding Jesus, I’m not doubting that he existed, but doubt that he continues to exist. How reliable is the eye witness testimony of his resurrection? Especially after all this time. And as for the account of his ascension, where was he actually going? – as we now know that heaven isn’t really up above the sky after all.

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  46. toadspittle says:

    “…as we now know that heaven isn’t really up above the sky after all.”
    How do we know that, Adrian (at home)? How do we know what’s “above the sky”?

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  47. toadspittle says:

    “with respect (Adrian) – your vision is tunnel vision unable to conceive of, let alone consider non-material existence”
    In other words, tunnel vision is good – but only when it’s our tunnel.

    (Do we think AdrianAtHome can “conceive” of the existence of music or numbers – which are, of course, non-material – let alone consider them? No!)

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  48. The Raven says:

    No, Adrian, you’ve offered us conjectures supporting your view that we should dismiss Fr Neuhaus’s account – intensive care is not necessarily the same thing as post-operative care, there is nothing in the account that allows us to say with certainty that the factors that you point to were present.

    And if you’re going to challenge the reliability of the resurrection accounts, please set out your argue your case.

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  49. Adrian Meades (in town) says:

    Fair enough Raven. Considering that both you and John believe Fr Neuhaus’s account to be firm evidence for the existence of angels – and that all of my efforts in conjecture have now been dismissed – I have no more to add.

    “And if you’re going to challenge the reliability of the resurrection accounts, please set out your argue your case”
    Judging by your approach to the reliability of eyewitness accounts (at least, those which support your established beliefs) I really don’t think that this would be a worthwhile endeavour, should I happen to have a case to argue.
    One question though; why do you think it was that Jesus ascended into the sky?

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  50. toadspittle says:

    It would be unwise to dismiss Fr Neuhaus’s account, if that is what AdrianAtHome is actually doing. It would be equally rash to accept it unquestioningly.
    Best just put it quietly on one side, marked, “Impossible to know. Maybe. Or maybe not.”

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  51. toadspittle says:

    …Are we all sure Abraham was told by God to kill his son, and was not simply temporarily off his head? How could we ever be sure of that?
    I was under the impression that the resurrection accounts didn’t tally anyway, Raven. Is that so?

    Like

  52. Adrian Meades (in town) says:

    I didn’t dismiss his account, Toad. I was putting forward very pertinent reasons for questioning the validity of Fr Neuhaus’s account, and it was these points that have been dismissed by Raven and John.

    Like

  53. The Raven says:

    As ever, Adrian, you have this firmly about your neck: as Toad wisely points out, we should not and cannot simply dismiss the testimony of Fr Neuhaus and we certainly don’t have enough information to parlay your conjectures (which seem to be advanced solely because they conform to your own presuppositions). I have gone no further than to point out the irrationality and double-standard lurking behind your objections.

    I note that you are not willing to actually try to make a case against the accounts of the resurrection. Perhaps you will be encouraged to do so soon.

    And on your last point, where do you get “the sky” from? The text that I think that you are referring to is in Acts –

    1:9 And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight.

    Like

  54. The Raven says:

    Toad,

    The general schema of the resurrection accounts lines up between the Gospels, but they differ in detail and, to some small extent, order of events.

    The differences between the accounts look to me as though they are, in part, due to different emphases for the various audiences that they were written for and also, in part, the product of witnesses varying recollections/part in the events described – the account in John is the fullest, whereas Matthew and Mark seem to be dealing with the first-hand recollections of someone who was more peripheral to the original Apostolic group.

    That’s my wholly uneducated take on things, no doubt wiser heads may wish to offer an alternate view.

    Like

  55. The Raven says:

    You put forward speculation, Adrian, not reasons based on evidence.

    The purpose behind your speculations was to challenge an account that didn’t fit in with your preconceptions.

    Like

  56. toadspittle says:

    “Fortis imaginatio generat casum, say the schoolmen.
    [“A strong imagination begets the event itself.”—Axiom. Scholast.]”

    Says Montaigne (Essay on Imagination). Worth bearing in mind, when considering all this speculative stuff.

    Like

  57. Adrian Meades (in town) says:

    Raven,
    “And on your last point, where do you get “the sky” from?”

    Well, apart from all the paintings, and other Catholic depictions of the event, I get it from here:

    “And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments. Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as you have seen him going into heaven.”
    You appear to be suggesting that I am mistaken ??

    Like

  58. toadspittle says:

    It’s all symbolic, Adrian. Like a Mel Gibson movie!
    Don’t go taking religion so literally! Raven will agree.
    …Or you’ll end up gibbering, you know.
    It took me several years to realise that you’re not supposed to believe things in spite of their being impossible – but becausethey’re impossible.

    Once you do that, it all makes perfect sense.

    Like

  59. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    “It’s all symbolic, Adrian”
    Well, that’s certainly not the Vatican’s view, Toad.

    Like

  60. toadspittle says:

    The Vatican is a nest of vipers, toads, spiders, perverts and Freemasons – all full of Poyson since Benedict handed in his hat and his papers, Adrian At Home….or so I’m told.

    Like

  61. The Raven says:

    Well done, Adrian, you can quote back to me the same source that I quoted to you!

    The text simply says that he was “raised up” – that isn’t particularly visually dramatic – one can understand why an artist may wish to paint something a little more thrilling.

    Which brings me back to my original question: where do you get “sky” from? And how is it relevant or important?

    Like

  62. Adrian Meades (in town) says:

    “Well done, Adrian, you can quote back to me the same source that I quoted to you!”
    Yes, Raven, and I can also add the rest of the account, which you happened to leave out.

    You appear to be telling me that all the supporting evidence – the witness accounts – of the ascension is misleading. Also, that all sanctioned depictions of the event are misleading too. If so, why is it that you don’t apply the same attitude to the accounts of the resurrection?

    btw How far up are you suggesting he was raised? A few metres would not have obscured Jesus behind a cloud unless it was particularly foggy that day. Nor would the observers need to be ‘looking up to heaven’.

    Like

  63. Adrian Meades (in town) says:

    p.s. Raven, I did reply to you yesterday on the subject of Fr Neuhaus, but this post seems to have been deleted by a moderator.

    Like

  64. The Raven says:

    No, Adrian, read t he text again: He was raised up and received (υπελαβεν) by a cloud. He didn’t rush up into a cloud, the cloud came to him (they were on a mountain).

    The references to “looking up” hardly signify that the apostles were peering at some distant sky-bound object.

    And most depictions of the event can hardly be said to show a distant figure disappearing into a cumulus – e.g. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-U8rIILDBugI/T7QuKkRmLyI/AAAAAAAAAQ8/Hc_BVbwtcGQ/s1600/Ascension.jpg

    I think that your flogging a dead strawman with this one, Adrian.

    Like

  65. Adrian Meades (in town) says:

    If the cloud came to him, then why is it called the ascension?! And why would they be looking ‘up to heaven’ – surely by your reckoning they’d be peering into the cloud? And it’s a hill, not a mountain.
    “And most depictions of the event can hardly be said to show a distant figure disappearing into a cumulus”
    Of course they don’t, as they wished to show an image of Jesus. What artist would have painted him as a tiny speck?

    “I think that your flogging a dead strawman with this one, Adrian”
    Rather I have demonstrated the inconsistency and bias with which you assess the reliability of such accounts as this and of Fr Neuhaus. Checkmate I think.

    Like

  66. toadspittle says:

    Have you never been received by a cloud, Adrianathome?
    I am – frequently. So is Raven, I expect.
    It’s time you got a hobby.
    Ever considered tap dancing? Good clean fun – and exercise!
    And it will stop you hanging around dubious blogs, making trouble, and upsetting everyone.

    Like

  67. johnhenrycn says:

    My tech support guy tells me lots of people live in the Cloud and that I should go there too.

    Like

  68. The Raven says:

    Poor old Adrian, you don’t seem to get this whole language thing.

    It’s called the ascension because Our Lord ascended into heaven – which is perceived as being higher than the Earth and “higher” doesn’t necessarily mean physically above, as recourse to a dictionary will tell you.

    I look up to my father, but he is at least half a head shorter than me; I look up to the principled stand taken by St Thomas More, but a principled stand is a concept, not a visible thing; I look up to my grandfather’s generation, who defeated fascism, but they are dead and gone; I look up from my iPad to my wife, but she is sat at the same level as me.

    “Looking up” means rather more than craning one’s neck to peer into the sky.

    And the final element of the account is reported speech, not a physical description of what is going on.

    And artists rarely show Our Lord flying off, because that ain’t what the Good Book says happened; as I said to you before, artist like to paint something with visual impact, we don’t take our doctrine from our art and we don’t hold get terribly upset by artistic licence (although it appears that you do).

    I am sorry for your last paragraph: this conversation has only really shown your own desire to stick with a tendentious reading of events; my argument with you over Fr Neuhaus is that your dismissal of his account rests on your willingness to insert things into that account that we have no evidence for.

    In much the same way you have sought to insert elements into the account in Acts of the ascension that simply aren’t there. Perhaps you will get round to telling us why you are so keen for those elements to be present.

    As for your very last sentence, it’s good of you to concede defeat, but wouldn’t you rather play the game to its conclusion?

    Like

  69. johnhenrycn says:

    Why is Adrian Meades (in town) but no longer ‘at home’? Sorry, Adrian, but no one on CP&S, even the creators thereof, are competent to give you the Damascene moment you crave in your life. Wouldn’t you be more ‘at home’ on, say, a philatelic blog?

    Like

  70. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    Oh, Raven! Don’t you see what you have done?
    If you – a Catholic – can totally demolish the Bible’s account of the ascension, why on earth would you expect me to accept its account of the resurrection?

    And don’t worry John; I’m setting off back up to town just after I’ve fed the animals.

    Like

  71. The Raven says:

    Don’t be daft, Adrian, I’ve only pointed out that scripture says something different to what you think it says.

    Now are you actually going to make an argument on the resurrection accounts or is this shadow-boxing all that you have?

    Like

  72. Adrian Meades (in town) says:

    “Don’t be daft, Adrian, I’ve only pointed out that scripture says something different to what you think it says”
    No Raven, you are disputing what it actually says. For instance, according to you “And while they were beholding him going up to heaven” is a total misrepresentation of what actually happened. So surely I can apply the same approach to the accounts of the resurrection? That – as you must be aware – is my argument.

    Revelations 11:12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them

    Matthew 3:16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.

    John 17:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you”

    Like

  73. The Raven says:

    Well, Adrian, you’ve demonstrated two things beyond any further doubt: you don’t understand use of language and don’t know when to stop flogging a dead horse.

    Let me help you out here: the description “going up to Heaven” does not necessarily correlate with a movement upwards into the air – any more than the phrase “going up to town” has that meaning, or “going up to Cambridge”.

    Tell me, why do you persist in seemingly believing that Christians think that heaven is a place in the sky?

    Like

  74. Adrian Meades (in town) says:

    No, I do not think that modern Christians believe heaven to be a place in the sky, but at the time the Bible was written this was the established belief among the peoples of the region. Such beliefs are well documented, through the Egyptians, and Hebrews, all the way to Mohammed with Buraq, on their night flight to and around heaven itself.
    Therefore I can’t see how you can justify your rewriting of Biblical event.

    Like

  75. toadspittle says:

    “Tell me, (Adrian) why do you persist in seemingly believing that Christians think that heaven is a place in the sky?” …asks Raven.

    What (on Earth) does it really matter “where” Heaven is “located”?
    What’s important is how we end up there – If there is – in fact, anywhere to end up in. (!)

    Heaven sounds horribly boring, at best though, to me. Others think differently.
    …But who knows?
    Apropos of hardly anything; our mutual – and Very Well Beloved Brother In Christ – the Blessed Stephen Fry, was told by Mormons in Utah, that, “When you die, you will spend eternity with all the members of your family.”
    “What if you’ve been good?”
    asked Stephen.
    …Not well received.

    Best wait and see, I reckon.

    Like

  76. johnhenrycn says:

    Adrian Meades (Betwixt and Between) says:
    “No, I do not think that modern Christians believe heaven to be a place in the sky, but at the time the Bible was written this was the established belief among the peoples of the region.”

    Mmm, I doubt it was an established – as in ‘dogmatic’ – belief. A metaphorical one, more like, even for the primeval Hebrew patriarchs. http://www.biblestudying.net/cosmo-2.html

    Still, there is nothing heretical – so far as I know – in Catholics, or other Christians, imagining Heaven as a place in the sky. When I go for prayer walks along the river at the bottom of the hill, I look up at the sky, not down at the ground. A childlike habit perhaps, but very natural, and as Jesus said: ““Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

    Like

  77. johnhenrycn says:

    “When I go for prayer walks along the river at the bottom of the hill…”

    …at the confluence of two rivers, actually. Lovely spot, but even there, one’s eye is drawn to the heavenly sky.

    Like

  78. The Raven says:

    Adrian, you’re writing rubbish again: the Bible was composed over a period of centuries, which also encompassed the diffusion of Ptolemaic astronomy throughout the ancient world (in point of fact, it was a question of astronomy that convinced St Augustine to renounce Manichaeism in favour of Christianity).

    At the time that the New Testament was written, not all Jews even conceded the existence of a heaven (e.g. The Sadducees, who only recognised the Pentateuch as scripture). You can hardly claim that it was an “established belief” that Heaven was a place in the sky!

    And why on earth are you raising the beliefs of the Mahometans? Why not raise the beliefs of Pacific Island cargo cultists, as they’re equally relevant to Christian beliefs?

    Like

  79. Adrian Meades says:

    Dear John,
    do you really believe that it was only the Muslims of the 7th century AD who believed it possible to fly up to heaven? No; the notion of the firmament was not metaphorical, but the actual belief that the sky and the stars were all within a huge dome, with heaven located on the other side i.e. above us. And this belief was upheld from the ancient Hebrews until the 1500s, when the Church began to have doubts – following Copernicus’s discoveries.
    Therefore, for Raven to claim that the Bible’s accounts of the ascension are merely symbolic or metaphorical is nonsense. Why, in a culture steeped in the beliefs that heaven was above us – above the sky – why would anyone use the metaphors of ascending up to heaven, and going up to heaven in a cloud? Clearly, considering the established beliefs of the time, one would expect people to take this literally.
    But if Raven does have any good evidence to suggest that the authors of the New Testament had alternative theories which conflicted with that of the firmament, I’d be very keen to hear about them.

    Like

  80. Adrian Meades says:

    Raven
    “At the time that the New Testament was written, not all Jews even conceded the existence of a heaven”
    Then they wouldn’t have been writing accounts of the ascension into heaven, would they?
    And St, Augustine upheld the belief in the firmament.

    Like

  81. The Raven says:

    Adrian

    We’d known that the world was roughly spherical since the fourth century BC and estimates of the distance to the “fixed stars” ranged up to 90 million miles. And it wasn’t Copernicus, it was Keppler, who disturbed the Ptolemaic ideas about fixed stars and spheres with his observations of comets.

    What you are giving us is nothing short of junk history.

    And no, I am not saying that the ascension was a metaphor or a symbol, I am saying that the “upness” that you are insisting upon is not a reference to a physical direction.

    If you’re going to carry on an argument, Adrian, you do have to read what the other person is actually saying.

    And, as has already been pointed out to you, your account of the “established beliefs of the time” is, put bluntly, wrong – more junk history.

    And remind me, where is the firmament mentioned in the New Testament?

    Like

  82. The Raven says:

    For once you are right, Adrian, the Sadducees didn’t write the New Testament. But they give the lie to your claim that it was an established, universal belief that Heaven lurks somewhere in the sky.

    Remind me, Adrian, what did importance did St Augustine place on the firmament, what role did it play in his writings or beliefs?

    Out of interest, you’re a long way from being the first atheist that I’ve encountered who has obsessed over the ascension; is this a trope attributable to a particular one of your prophets (Dannat or Myers, perhaps)? It would be good to read the source material to find out where it is that you think that you’re going with this.

    Like

  83. johnhenrycn says:

    Adrian, we’re arguing about non-essentials. That heaven is not located in the neighbourhood of Alpha Centauri is something the rest of us, not including our dear Funnymentalist friend, St Bosco (before your time) will concede. As for your comment at 23:49, the fact that some people before the so-called Enlightenment thought of heaven as having a material locus – so what? Even atheists back then, of which there must have been a few – perhaps even intelligent ones – thought of the universe as having physical boundaries, and some physicists (atheists probably) still do, I think. Some atheists back then must have believed the earth was flat. So to disparage religious belief because some (not all) believers back then, and even some today, conceive(d) of heaven and hell in terms of geography is hardly something Christians need consider a serious rebuttal to their faith. In any case, you still need to provide proof, by way of citation, that the Doctors of the Church have in the past taught that Heaven is a physical place. If you can, I will admit that I’m wrong – not about the nature of heaven, but about my knowledge of the patristic texts, which however limited, is better than yours. I hope. But even if you can, you absolutely cannot show me any unambiguous pronouncements of the Magisterium to that effect. The proof of the pudding is in the eating is the apt aphorism here.

    Like

  84. johnhenrycn says:

    Adrian, if you want a good chuckle about anti-Catholic ‘bible-thumpers’, visit St Bosco’s website. He’s also known as Bozoboy87 and his Gravatar resume says that he’s a diagnostic biochemist, jazz guitarist and candidate chess master, which is to say he’s a ukulele-playing lab technician pawn of Satan.

    Like

  85. toadspittle says:

    Adrian,whether in town, or at home – is putting up a splendid game: (“For once you are right, Adrian”!)
    As soon as we get Adrian in the library, Raven and JH are sunk.

    (I miss-typed him just now as Ardian. Which is serendipitous. And he will go straight up to Heaven when he dies, many years hence. …Much to his amazement.)

    Like

  86. johnhenrycn says:

    Taod (Urdu for ‘Taod’) how serendipitous is it that you use the word ‘serendipitous’ a mere 30 hours after I did on the Atheism is Acquired thread. Serendipitous, or evidence that you’re Pavlov’s Dog?

    Like

  87. johnhenrycn says:

    … actually it was precisely 32:59 hours after I did, which saves you from a charge of plagiarism, but not Pavlovian(ism).

    Like

  88. johnhenrycn says:

    Why does Adrian Meades (At Home / In Town) remind you of Ardian (Fullani), the governor of Albania’s central bank, arrested 5 weeks ago in his office on charges of abuse of office concerning the alleged theft of 713 million lek ($6.63 million USD) from the bank’s vaults? Ardian is certainly a smug looking chap, but I don’t see what else would cause you to confuse him with Adrian Meades (At Home / In Town).

    Like

  89. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    John,
    “the fact that some people before the so-called Enlightenment thought of heaven as having a material locus – so what?”
    Because it demonstrates how Raven’s reinterpretations of the accounts of the ascension are untenable.
    But don’t look to me – an uneducated country boy, with naive notions of “junk history” – to show you how the Church’s belief in the firmament endured for so long, as you’d only dismiss it somehow. Raven should be more than happy to fill you in on the facts.

    Like

  90. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    Raven,
    “For once you are right, Adrian, the Sadducees didn’t write the New Testament. But they give the lie to your claim that it was an established, universal belief that Heaven lurks somewhere in the sky.”
    The lie to my claim?! Did I say there was a ‘universal’ belief in heaven? Why would people who didn’t believe in heaven hold the belief that it was above the sky??
    The established beliefs of heaven placed it somewhere above the sky, and if you have any good evidence which disputes this, please show.

    “Out of interest, you’re a long way from being the first atheist that I’ve encountered who has obsessed over the ascension; is this a trope attributable to a particular one of your prophets (Dannat or Myers, perhaps)?”
    I don’t think I’ve heard anything of these people, nor have I read any books by Dawkins. And I’m not ‘obsessed’ with the ascension; you know full well why I raised the topic, and as it turned out it was a dead horse worth flogging.

    Like

  91. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    To return to the subject of Fr Neuhaus’ account, I’d just like to ask a few more questions, Raven.
    You said to me “this conversation has only really shown your own desire to stick with a tendentious reading of events; my argument with you over Fr Neuhaus is that your dismissal of his account rests on your willingness to insert things into that account that we have no evidence for”

    Firstly I’d just like to point out that I did not dismiss his account, but was questioning the reliability of it.
    So, do you think it likely that, at the time of his experience, Fr Neuhaus
    A. was recovering from unusual physiological and mental conditions after being shortly released from intensive care?
    B. had been taking, or continuing to take drugs for his condition, some of which would be new to him?
    C. had woken in the night?
    D. was in unfamiliar surroundings?
    E. was around unfamiliar people, coming and going?
    If you have answered yes to any of these questions, do you think that these factors may have influenced his perception of the experience?

    Like

  92. johnhenrycn says:

    We considered all of those things, Adam, as did Fr Neuhaus. Never let it be said that Christians believe every story they hear about the hereafter, but I think there’s a serious possibility – indeed a probability, that his account is both rational and credible. He certainly thought so at the time and for all the remaining years of his life. He was a brilliant man who, like St Paul, didn’t suffer fools gladly, and he would have been the first to revisit and analyze his experience in the days and weeks that followed and before he would have ever thought of writing about it.

    Death, not Star Trek, is the real final frontier, and we’re slowly learning more about it.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/life-after-death-largestever-study-provides-evidence-that-out-of-body-and-neardeath-experiences-may-actually-be-real-9780195.html

    Like

  93. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    John,
    I see that your cringeworthy – and unchristian – attempts to belittle continue to backfire on you. At least this may save you getting into any serious trouble from this unpleasant trait.

    Anyway, thanks for the link to the article. It reminded me that this is the time of year when the liberty cap toadstools start appearing. The young men round these parts will pick them and eat them, and embark on all sorts of adventures – often quite dangerous.
    To anyone that has not experienced the sort of effects on the mind as this fungi facilitates, the experience is impossible to describe, as life appears so unexpectedly altered – more weird than any dream, but sometimes combined with the darkness of an awful nightmare.
    To protect the uninitiated from becoming overwhelmed by these powerful hallucinogenic effects we were told to always keep in mind that “whatever happens, it’s only the mushrooms messing with your brain”.

    Like

  94. johnhenrycn says:

    “I see that your cringeworthy – and unchristian – attempts to belittle…”
    That’s so sad, Adrian Meades. Where, in my reply of 18:06, have I said anything “cringeworthy”? Where, in it, have I attempted “to belittle” you?

    Lo! Looking at my last comment again, I see that I did call you ‘Adam’ instead of ‘Adrian’; but I assure you, dear heart, that was a mere slip of the index finger – much like your ad nauseam references to me as ‘John’.

    All the best with your mushroom adventures, Adrian, which Fr Neuhaus never partook in.

    Like

  95. johnhenrycn says:

    I wonder if it’s time to think about changing the ethos of this blog from one that invites disparagement of dogma to one that invites good faith questioning of dogma? No wish to suggest anything stronger than that, but it’s so tiresome talking to rank atheists. Personally, I’m happy with whatever the founders choose…which reminds me – has Kathleen taken a vow of silence?

    Like

  96. Adrian Meades (at home) says:

    Oh dear!

    Like

  97. johnhenrycn says:

    “Oh dear!”
    If you brushed and flossed more often, you wouldn’t be down to one tooth (which is just as trenchant a reply as yours to mine).

    Like

  98. johnhenrycn says:

    I know you Englanders don’t celebrate Thanksgiving – originally a New England occasion – but we are about to, so here’s a Catholic hymn ( I think) in praise of God’s bounty:

    Like

  99. toadspittle says:

    “…nor have I read any books by Dawkins. “

    …Then it’s high time you did. They’re very good. We want to see Adrian (at the Library) toot sweet!
    Right, JH & Raven?
    Right!

    I highly recommend “The Blind Watchmaker.”
    Don’t bother with “The God Delusion,” it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know.

    Like

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