“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
– Mark 1:14, 15 –
From the great texts of philosophy of St. Augustine to David Hume, the issue of causality was scrutinized and justified in divergent ways. While Christian doctrine shaped a lot of St. Augustine’s texts, David Hume’s thoughts began as a reactionary response to Immanuel Kant’s assumptions of causality.
In the Christian bible, like many other religious texts, there is an assurance of this omnipotent being who is the Creator, the omnipotent, the omniscient, and the infinitely benevolent. The great minds of humanity have tackled these incredible attributes which have led to most famously, the problem of evil – where it would be contradictory for a being to be infinitely benevolent and omnipotent and sit idly by as humans suffer. Since the Creator would have the power to get rid of evil and is infinitely aware of this evil, it would be contradictory for that Being to let it be.
But I digress.
In the Book of Mark, the aforementioned quote is uttered many times in hymns, homilies, amongst academics as one of the more popular quotes in the bible.
What struck me to be especially evident in this quote, but also within the bible as a whole, is this underlying theme of determinism.
In the realm of philosophy there is a distinction between “Soft-determinism” and “Hard-determinism” where the prior is the notion that while our actions are determined in an infinite continuum, we have the faculty of choice and the ability to choose freely the action which was determined to take place. The latter states that the environment, our upbringing, genetics, impulses, and other influences rigidly determine the way we act.
This latter belief leads to dangerous implications where a person can claim to do very outrageous, unethical, and obscene things and not claim any responsibility for their actions because they can claim that they had no choice but to do what they did.
Now, what does this have to do with the Book of Mark?
It irks me that throughout the expansive realm of catechism there is always this notion of “A Plan.” A purpose which God instills in all of us. A path that we were meant to take. A path that is yet to come but inevitably will.
This sounds a lot like a soft-determined world where we are free to choose to actions but they will inevitably lead to an outcome. But instead, this time it is God’s intended outcome. But do we really have the faculty of choice?
What this simply does for all the apostles and the players in the bible is assure them during hard times. Assure them that their pain will lead to something greater. Assure them that what they are enduring is for a greater life in the horizon. Assure them that what they are enduring is not in vain but a necessary step.
This is the epitome of religion to me. This assurance.
The assurance during the darkest times. This rosy image of a better tomorrow. This crushing of any thoughts of vanity or nihilism. The assurance that we NEED to endure this step in order for things to get better.
But now the 17 trillion dollar question is: Then what does that say about religion?
Karl Marx is famously quoted as saying that “religion is the opiate of the masses.”
I tend to side more along the lines of Rene Descartes who said, “I doubt, therefore I am.” But doesn’t this put me in an arrogant position to say that I am doubting religion through the scope of science and reason? Does that imply that I think reason is better than religion?
I think more than anything, if I may be so bold, I would like to modify Descartes’ phrase as saying: “I doubt the power of Reason itself, therefore I am.”
Thanks for reading, just my personal thoughts.