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Cynthia Halpern - Essay Example

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Cynthia Halpern

This is primarily because, as the reader soon realizes, the focus is not on Luther per se but on a set of themes which much of his discourses and writings revolved around and which, subsequently figured into the writings and discourses of the named philosophers. These themes are loyalty and obedience to temporal rulers versus loyalty and obedience towards God; the absence of God in material form versus the emphatically material presence of the Church; the church which resides within the faithful Christian and which is found wherever the faithful conglomerate for worship versus the artificial Church which has been imposed upon the faithful by those who have set themselves up as the mediators between God and man; and the suffering which the faithful must endure and whether religiosity is inextricably linked with suffering. These are questions which Luther raised and which later philosophers analyzed from various interpretive angles, ultimately culminating in Nietzsche's declaration that God was dead.' They are question to which there are no satisfactory answers or at least, answers which would satisfy the collective. While the reader may experience a sense of frustration at Halpern's failure to provide definitive answers to the questions raised, he/she realizes that the purpose is not the provision of answers but the exposition of Luther's (and others) thoughts and theories on these questions, ultimately inciting the reader to explore these questions him/herself.
Man occupies two worlds and, accordingly, his self is divided. Halpern clearly explains Luther's philosophical outlook on the stated and relates it to the theme of suffering in the context of religion. As she explains, man occupies a temporal and a spiritual world and is himself torn between his material and his spiritual inclinations. The spiritual world, the realm of religion and faith, is the world of suffering. The temporal world, or material world, is that of earthly pleasures but, for the faithful it can also be a world of suffering. The reason lies in the two world's conflicting laws and rules, with man expected to simultaneously abide by both. Therefore, as mat be deduced from Halpern's analysis, religious reformers and philosophers, most notably Luther, primarily saw the faithful as sufferers.
Halpern's lucid explanation of a complex philosophical and theocratic notion actually gives readers an insight into the real-world interplay between temporal and the spiritual world and the intricate interrelationship between religion and suffering. As we ourselves may determine from our personal observations, religions are based on suffering insofar as they call for the oppression of the self. Quite simply stated, they impose a set of moral rules and behavioral rituals upon adherents and demand that they abide by them, irrespective of their natural inclinations. For example, Christianity demands celibacy from both the males and the females who join the religious order. Granted that some Christian sects no longer make that demand of the males but significant sects, such as the Catholic, still do. The point here is that this is an unnatural requirement which calls upon those who supposedly chose to devote their life to worship and the service of religion, to suppress their natural inclinations and oppress their real selves. In other words, faith appears to demand constant sacrifices which entail suffering.
Indeed, the interrelationshi ...Show more

Summary

Commencing with a comprehensive and highly informative account of the theocratic philosophical precepts which informed, even precipitated Luther's Protestant Reformation, Cynthia Halpern critically analyzes the divide between the temporal and the spiritual world across several philosophers and ages…
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