Thursday, January 25, 2024

Support For Christianity Among Some Of The Foremost Mediums

Something that doesn't get enough attention in discussions of mediumship is how often some of the mediums with the most documented paranormal abilities have supported Christianity in one way or another. I'm not saying that their mediumship was consistent with Christianity, that these mediums were in contact with the spirits they claimed to be in contact with, or anything like that. As I've explained before, I think that there's a lot of genuine paranormal activity (along with much that's inauthentic) in mediumship, near-death experiences, and other such contexts. But I think what's often involved is human paranormal capacities, meaning that the experiences often reflect the human mind, including its fallibility, sinful tendencies, and so on. Still, it's worth noting how prominent support for Christianity and certain aspects of Christianity (e.g., monotheism, a future judgment) often have been among mediums, near-death experiencers, people who have deathbed experiences, and so forth. That doesn't sit well with the sort of religious pluralism, universalism, relativism, and such that we often hear from many advocates of the paranormal in our day.

Gregory Shushan provides some examples in his recent book on the afterlife:

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Irenaeus' View Of The Gospels Was Shaped By Many Sources

It's common to suggest that all or some large percentage of gospel authorship attributions among the patristic sources can be traced back to Papias. There are a lot of problems with that sort of argument, like the ones discussed here.

In that post, I discuss some of the sources who probably influenced Irenaeus' beliefs about who wrote the gospels, such as Pothinus and the gospel manuscripts Irenaeus read or heard about. Since Irenaeus was a church leader and traveled widely, think of how often he would have read gospel manuscripts, had them read by somebody else in his presence, heard other people mention the authorship of the documents in one context or another, etc. Look at how often he draws from the gospels in his writings, such as in Against Heresies. Or consider how often the gospels would have been read aloud during church services he attended or presided over. Think of how many of the doctrinal controversies, moral disputes, and such that occurred in his day involved material in the gospels and would have involved discussions of the gospels. See this post for a discussion of how Polycarp, one of Irenaeus' mentors, would have influenced New Testament authorship attributions in a variety of contexts. See here regarding a Roman source Irenaeus cited on gospel authorship. And see here for links to posts about other relevant sources. One of the ones listed there is the heretic Ptolemy, who attributed the fourth gospel to a disciple of Jesus named John and is quoted by Irenaeus doing so (Against Heresies, 1:8:5).

Irenaeus did have access to the writings of Papias, but he doesn't say that he got his gospel authorship attributions from Papias, and it's absurd to suggest that Papias was his only source on the topic. Given the nature of Irenaeus' life (when he lived, his relationship with Polycarp, his relationship with Pothinus, his roles in church leadership, his widespread traveling, his access to what Papias wrote, etc.), he had to have been influenced by a large number and variety of sources on issues like gospel authorship, and those sources are likely to have been independent of one another to some degree. There's no reason to begin with a default assumption that they all were dependent on Papias, nor is there any reason to think universal dependence on Papias is equally possible or likely. Rather, it's highly unlikely.