Monday, May 10, 2010

ATTENTION: Check out the NEW Blog!

Rather than splitting my efforts into three separate blogs, I have decided to merge them all into one. I hope that you enjoy:

-Jon Vowell

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why Social Justice is Evil

  "And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us...full of grace and truth." John 1:14

  "...of some have with fear, pulling them out of the fire...." Jude 22-3

  It is hard for a me to take social work and programs seriously. No matter how "Christian" the whole "compassion for others" tag-line sounds, it still doesn't change the fact that much of what passes as social "work" and/or "justice" in the modern West is essentially linked with two enemies of the Christian Faith. One is liberal politics and its necessary destruction of all traditional values and truths (esp. Christian values and truths). The other is the diabolical Social Gospel, which redefines (re: replaces) Sin as poverty and racism and Redemption as legislation and lobbying. In sum, the former seeks the destruction of Christian essentials while the latter completely perverts the Gospel; thus, both are the enemies of the Christian Faith, and yet both seem to be necessarily ancillary to having "compassion" for "the least of these." This is why social justice (as it currently stands and is defined) is evil.
  Obviously, we need to understand (and unashamedly assert) what people really need, i.e., salvation from the wrath of God against Sin. This post, however, will strive to address other fundamental flaws (other than, though building off of, the two mentioned already) in current social work paradigms by doing some demolition work against the word most used (and thoroughly abused) by social advocates: compassion. It is my hope that this demo work will help redefine social justice away from its evil contexts and connections and restore it to its proper place as a work of holiness.
  Compassion devoid of reason and common sense is not compassion but rather the worst kind of cruelty, unleashing further hellish effects by its good intentions. Yet we in the West seem struck with a curious malady that deems all acts of thoughtful contemplation and consideration (i.e., critical thinking) as hesitation, and hesitation is deemed as heartless indifference. Thus, many fly into the fray, helping one and  damaging a hundred. We seem to have truly forgotten that grace and truth must work in tandem, and those who would make them foes commit a most egregious and unnecessary divorce. This erroneous separation is one of the first misunderstandings that must be purged from compassion: compassion is not the enemy of truth; there is no compassion without truth.
  Such a separation between compassion and truth does not exist in Scripture. On the contrary: "[Love] rejoices in the truth" (I Cor. 13:6b). What business have we to claim compassion at the expense of truth? What right have we, in pursuing social "justice," to support and enforce programs and/or legislation that does damage to nations and morals? In addition, the great need of man is answered in the blood of God spilled at Calvary in Christ, and not in freshly upholstered furniture, affirmative action, or no child being left behind. Why would we dare assert otherwise? We must not sacrifice truth on the altar of sentimentalism, which is all our "compassion" is without the truth.
  The issue of sentimentalism is the other misunderstanding that must be purged from compassion. Compassion is not sentimental; it is heroics in action. For many, the way that "compassion" has been presented by social advocates is a highly soft picture (weeping children, sad music, and guilt-trip inducing lectures by some pious social worker with shiny eyes). Thus, compassion, is viewed as sentimental, i.e., a great welling up and overflow of shallow emotions produced by some external stimuli. Consequently, many  can see compassion as synonymous with weak or even weakness. To have compassion seemingly means to have a complete breakdown in the face of emotional propaganda. Thus, many average people (esp. men) find it hard to get involved in "compassionate" programs or ministries because they see such things as weak and shallow.
  The solution to this is to return to viewing compassion as a type of heroics. Rather than an effect caused from without, it is now caused from within, from the righteous disposition that comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit. True compassion is not a result of outer stimulatiuons but rather from inner righteousness, an inner and innate grasping of right and wrong coupled with the desire to see the right prevail. Compassion is not about feeling sorry for people because the sight of their plight momentarily affects our emotions; rather, it is a "pulling them out of the fire," a heroic rescue initiated by the Spirit of God from within. Compassion that is not based on that fire will fizzle out eventually. Compassion is not to end in tears and pity, and it especially is not supposed to end in liberal politics or Social Gospel. Compassion ends in rescue and nothing less. Perhaps if we let people know this, more would flock to help.
  Christ, of course, is our example. He took the greatest plunge into the fire when he became flesh and dwelt among us (Phil. 2:5-7). He did not lobby for appeals; He came to us "full of grace and truth." Not half and half, but both burning at full capacity without apology or contradiction. Look at the woman at the well (John 4): Jesus simultaneously offered her the water of life with one hand and exposed her immorality with the other. He is neither afraid nor ashamed to offer people grace and call them sinners (for who needs grace more than a sinner?).
  A fear of the truth, of calling people sinners, or being "divisive," are all enemies of true compassion. True compassion is the work of holiness in that it either (a) pulls sinners out of the fires of Hell or (b) produces the fruits of the Spirit, which are of the character and quality of God. That is why social justice (again, as it currently stands and is defined) is evil, because it does not have God. Its liberal leanings either debunk Him or relegate Him as an irrelevancy, while its Social Gospel leanings pervert His image into a lobbyist and legislator rather than Savior and Lord. As Christians, called to imitate Christ (who is God), we must redeem social justice from its currently evil contexts and connections. We must redefine what we mean by "compassion" and reassert the true Gospel of Christ.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Prelude to a Larger Post: Newman on Faith, Reason, and the Supplanting of Objectivity

The following is from the fourth section of the second discourse in The Idea of a University (for clarity's sake, I have broken the section into paragraphs and added emphasis where necessary):

     The religious world, as it is [now beginning to be] styled, holds, generally speaking, that Religion consists, not in knowledge, but in feeling or sentiment. The old Catholic notion, which still lingers in the Established Church, was that Faith was an intellectual act, its object truth, and its result knowledge. Thus if you look into the Anglican Prayer Book, you will find definite credenda as well as definite agenda; but in proportion as the Lutheran leaven spread, it became fashionable to say that Faith was, not an acceptance of revealed doctrine, not an act of the intellect, but a feeling, an emotion, an affection, an appetency; and, as this view of Faith obtained, so was the connection of Faith with Truth and Knowledge more and more either forgotten or denied. At length the identity of this (so called) spirituality of heart and the virtue of Faith was acknowledged on all hands. Some men indeed disapproved the pietism in question, others admired it; but whether they admired or disapproved, both...found themselves in agreement on the main point, viz., in considering that this really was in substance Religion, and nothing else; that Religion was based, not on argument, but on taste and sentiment, that nothing was objective, everything subjective, in doctrine.
     I say, even those who saw through the affectation in which the religious school of which I am speaking clad itself, still came to think that Religion, as such, consisted in something short of intellectual exercises, viz., in affections, in the imagination, in inward persuasions and consolations, in pleasurable sensations, sudden changes, and sublime fancies. They learned to believe and to take for granted that Religion was nothing beyond a supply of the wants of human nature, not an external fact and a work of God. There was, it appeared, a demand for Religion, and therefore there was a supply; human nature could not do without Religion. [...] Thus Religion was useful, venerable, beautiful, the sanction of order, the stay of government, the curb of self-will and self-indulgence, which the laws cannot reach; but, after all, on what was it based? Why, that was a question delicate to ask, and imprudent to answer; but, if the truth must be spoken, however, reluctantly, the long and the short of the matter was this, that Religion was based on custom, on prejudice, on law, on education, on habit, on loyalty, on feudalism, on enlightened experience, on many, many things, but not at all on reason; reason was neither its warrant, nor its instrument, and science had little connection with it as with the fashions of the season, or the state of the weather.

     In this second discourse of The Idea of a University, John Henry Newman argued for the presence of Theology to be taught in the universities, his final reason being that Theology is the "queen of the sciences" because it gives us knowledge about God, who is the source of all things, including reason and the laws of the universe (Discourse III, Sections 8-9). In this fourth section, he outlines what he sees as a heavy trend in the culture regarding religion (esp. the Christian religion) and consequently Theology, viz., all religious/spiritual matters are subjective and emotional in essence rather than objective and rational. Such a dichotomy should sound familiar: the whole of Modern Christendom (esp. the Emergent Church) is infected with this fashionable religious sentiment, i.e., spirituality is a result of our own subjective experiences rather than an objective truth (like God's revelations, both general and special).
     I quote Newton as yet another setup for my own thoughts on Christianity's answer to the post-modern objection, i.e., there cannot be an absolute truth because all we can know are our own subjective experiences, and they are too varied and complicated to be summed up under an essential quality. In other words, there is only emotional subjectivity and no rational objectivity; there is only the infinite ocean with no stars in the sky (except of our own making). I hope to answer this objection with what I see as the truly Christian answer, i.e., the ocean is infinite, but so are the stars in the sky.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prelude to a Larger Post: Oswald Chambers on the Whole and the Particulars

From the December 9th entry of Still Higher for His Highest:

If you take all the manifestations of God given in the Old Testament you find them a mass of contradiction--now God is pictured as a Man, now as a Woman, now as a lonely Hero, now as a suffering Servant--and until we come to the New Testament these conflicting characteristics but add confusion to our conception of God. But immediately we see Jesus Christ, we find all the apparent contradictions blended in one unique Personality.

Oswald is here hinting on a point that I hope to expand on in the very near future. One of the objections that our post-modern world has against absolute truth is that if there really was an essential, absolute reality to things, then things would be simpler. As it is, the presence of complications and complexities negate the possibility of any such essential, absolute reality. The particulars are too vast for any whole to encompass them (I dealt with a similar issue last year).

The big mistake that Christianity (esp. Emergent Christianity) has done in response to this claim is to agree with it and then try to maintain (re: redefine) the Christian Faith in the midst of it. I'm telling you right now, it cannot be done: essential, absolute realities are absolutely essential for Christianity to be Christianity. Take those away, and Christianity goes away as well. What is left in such a situation is slightly moral, incredibly trendy, and boasting a "Christian" veneer. It is not, however, the Christian Faith whereby men can be saved.

What Oswald points out (and what I plan to greatly expand on later) is the groundwork for a truly Christian response to the post-modern objection. That response is this assertion: Complexity and "apparent contradictions" amongst the particulars do not necessarily negate the presence of an essential and absolute whole. This is because the whole is great enough to encompass all the myriad of particulars into itself. The error that modern/post-modern types make is assuming that the essential, absolute realities or qualities are necessarily simple. I believe the proper Christian response is to assert that they are not simple; rather, they are infinite. The essential whole is just as vast (if not more so) than the various particulars.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Against Vulgar Professionalism (A Warning)

I understand a need for formality and presence when in certain situations. I would like to distinguish, however, between a "professionalism" that is a result of maturity and a "professionalism" that is a result of inhumanity.

When I would administer PRAXIS tests for my school (sort of a ACT for teachers), I am required to read verbatim to a room full of adults the test instructions written within the associate supervisor manual. The very first paragraph even says, "I am required to read these instructions and I cannot deviate from them." Each time I would read that particular line, I would quickly add, "So don't hate me." This lone addition would in turn result (without fail) in a distinct murmur of laughter from the test takers and a subsequently relaxation of the room's somewhat tense atmosphere.

Once, however, after I administered such a test, I was rebuked (not at all rudely) by a fellow associate who stated that I must avoid such humorous addendums in the future in order to maintain a sense of "professionalism" during test administration. Though my naturally amicable nature inclined me to initially approve of their sentiment, in truth I vehemently disagreed with it. If that is what "professionalism" is, then professionalism is for the birds; or better yet, for the machine, for only a machine can vomit any recitation without inflection or addition.

I am not a machine, nor do I address (in a test administration or any other aspect of real life) other machines. Speaking specifically to the test administration, I am a human addressing other humans who are currently in an environment of immense pressure and tension caused by (1) a test that holds their careers in its hands and (2) being in a room full of strangers. Nothing breaks such awful tension more than a sense of communion with other humans, and laughter is communion.

Thus is what I call vulgar professionalism, and I am defiantly opposed to it because it is a mechanistic adherence to inhumanity and therefore must certainly be a severe damage and detriment to one's soul. If your "professionalism" reveals a mature and advanced mind, capable of an acute awareness to environment or human needs and the communion that can address them, then you are guilty of no transgression. If, however, your "professionalism" reveals the machine, take heed to yourself and amend your ways. You continue at your own peril and the peril of others.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On the Validity of Self-Identification

I know that the Bible is the inspired word of God because it says so.

This is not circular reasoning. Circular reasoning requires two objects that alternatively serve as the necessary proof for the other ("I know 'X' because of 'Y'; I know 'Y' because of 'X'"). The statement "the Bible is God's word because it says so" cannot be circular because it has only one object, i.e., the Bible. It has nothing to "circulate" to. It stays with itself. It is its own referent; it does not refer to something that alternatively refers back to it for validity.

In addition, calling such a statement "circular reasoning" is fallacious because it reveals a lack of understanding about the nature of the Bible. The Bible is not a code book of maxims and creeds. It is a verbalized revelation from another person; in short, it is a message. A message implies de facto a sender, and it is certainly not uncommon (nor implicit of circulation) for a sender to identify themselves in their message (we would find it odd if they did not). Thus, the real question is not, "How do we know that it is God's word?" The real question is, "Why should we not accept it as God's word?" After all, the sender identifies themselves, just like my friends identify themselves when they send me a letter. Why then should I accept their self-identification but not God's?

-Jon Vowell

Monday, November 23, 2009

Against Emergent Doctrine (A Tidbit)

Faith is not doubt. It is the certainty of that which is, for the moment, empirically unprovable ("the evidence of things not seen"). I cannot (as of yet) empirically prove the existence of God, but I have no doubts about His existence. This certainty is based on (1) His objective revelations and (2) my subjective experiences (with my subjective experiences seen in the light of His objective revelations).

-Jon Vowell

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Spiritual: A Conversation between The Phoneix and I (Part 4)

Continuing from previous post(s):

In regards to our "protection" from spiritual evil, we are protected from spiritual evil by the blood of Christ, but that protection does not suddenly sever us from the spiritual world. We can still be witnesses to demonic activity (Jesus and His disciples certainly were), though through Christ we (1) are shielded from it and (2) have authority over it.

Your mentioning of "the judgment" after death (as King Jimmy calls it) was going to be my "further thoughts" about ghosts, viz., the nature of the afterlife. How you view the afterlife directly affects your view of ghosts; and as you pointed out, orthodox Christianity believes that once death occurs, the soul does not linger here. It goes on to "meet its Maker".

Of course, that just makes the ghost question more complicated. If they are not lingering souls nor demonic activity, then what are they?

I propose some pseudo-heterodox speculation on the subject. It should be fun, if for no other reason then it would provide an excellent plot line for some story in the future. 8^D

I shall begin, then you can respond to mine and then offer a pseudo-heterodoxical speculation of your own.


There is a concept within the Old Testament (and one that lingers in the New) that death is actually just "sleep," i.e., that the soul remains dormant in the body until God calls it to judgment. This could be what is behind those phrases in Pauline epistles where he talks about those who "sleep in Jesus," and how when Christ returns "the dead in Christ shall rise," seeming to suggest that their souls have not yet left their bodies (I Thess. 4:14, 16; actually, the entire passage of I Thess. 4:13-18 has several mentions of "those who sleep").

If we take it that in death the soul merely "sleeps" until it is called to judgment, then we can then perhaps explain why some people say a place is haunted because some poor soul "cannot find rest". The default idea behind hauntings is that something terrible and/or unjust occurred to someone and now they can have no rest until it is rectified. Perhaps this can be connected to the whole "soul-sleep" theory, viz., at death, a soul normally sleeps until the call to judgment, but in instances of wrong (an upsurge of horrendous spiritual evil) the soul is incapable of resting until justice is met, whether in this life (by some avenger) or the next (at the throne of God).

The Fall could definitely explain how this is possible: the introduction of Sin into the world has disrupted the whole of Creation (including the spiritual side), causing all that ought to happen to be thwarted. If "soul-sleep" is the proper and natural result of death (i.e., what ought to be), then it is completely possible that Sin can (or has) disrupt it as well.

Thus, perhaps the old story (i.e., they cannot find rest) is actually the true story: Ghosts are souls that cannot sleep because of the terrible evil that happened to them, and thus are left to linger until justice is served somehow.

Thus is my first speculation. I await your response.

-Jon Vowell

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Spiritual: A Conversation between The Phoneix and I (Part 3)

Continuing from previous post(s):

My thoughts on ghosts are interesting precisely because I am unsure about them.

Having been raised in a fundamentalist background, I was taught (and thus believed by default) to treat all paranormal activity as purely demonic, a mere method of deception to turn people from God and towards Satan.

Lately I am unsure, however, and that for two reasons.

If I've read C.S. Lewis correctly, one of the devil's favorite tactics is secrecy, not only in regards to himself but in regards to the spiritual world as a whole. He would much rather you be ignorant of a spiritual world (and subsequently spiritual beings) because such knowledge can lead to all sorts of nasty questions about the afterlife, your soul (its existence and nature), and even God and Satan. The presence of ghosts seems detrimental to such ends. If there are ghosts, then two things must necessarily be true: (1) we have a soul, and (2) that soul will live beyond the life of the body. Such acknowledgments are dangerous for the purposes of the demonic, for although they can lead one astray, they can also lead one straight into the arms of religion, specifically God's religion. So, in sum, my first reason is that the presence of ghosts seems detrimental to Satan's purposes since they give acknowledgment to the spiritual side of things and thus can lead people to start taking spiritual questions seriously.

My other reason for being unsure about a "purely demonic" understanding of the paranormal is that if it is an operation of Satan, then it is an incredibly slip-shod operation. Watch any of those "ghost shows" and you'll see what I mean: the activities of the demons (if they are demons) seem highly confused and unorganized, spending most of their time slowly opening doors, dropping things, making it suddenly cold, or muttering useless comments that vaguely identify themselves with whoever or whomever last occupied their haunting grounds. Honestly now: If I was a malevolent spiritual entity bent on deceiving humanity through paranormal activity, why would I waste my time and energy having my minions doing such asinine activities as making noises and muttering nonsensicals? Would it not make more sense to have them do something more obviously "pro-Satanic," like saying "Satan is awesome" or writing it on a wall somewhere in bright burning letters? In sum, I guess that my second reason is that I like to give my opponent (i.e., Satan) the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is indeed colossally foul but also colossally brilliant, and that his true activities are far more dreadful and effective.

I have further thoughts about ghosts, my dear Phoenix, but I shall break for now so neither you nor I grow weary with my words. Send me your thoughts and whether or not you want me to continue or if I should just shut up and go read a book or something.

-Jon Vowell

Thoughts on the Spiritual: A Conversation between The Phoneix and I (Part 2)

Continuing from previous post:

I believe in angels and demons, i.e., I believe that the spiritual side of things contains spiritual beings, with one sect being wholly bent towards evil and thus wholly bent towards causing destruction and damnation either directly or indirectly, and the other sect being wholly bent towards good and thus wholly bent towards causing restoration and redemption either directly or indirectly. I believe them to be personal intelligences and not impersonal forces (or even impersonal intelligences, i.e., they are not mere machines).

I believe that human beings (since we are intimately connected with their world as much as they are to ours), in aligning themselves with either the good or the evil, can be aided by one and consequently assaulted by the other, since they are at war with each other because their very essences and purposes are antithetical (destruction vs. restoration, etc.).

Thus (in regards to this warfare), I believe in "magic," but not in the naive since of mere "power". I see magic as a form of communion, communion with one or the other of those "personal intelligences," whether they be good or evil. The "magic" of the good consist of prayer, the reading and quoting of scripture, worship, and various subjective experiences where we come in contact with and thereby commune with the good (who I obviously recognize as God). The "magic" of the evil consist of different things, whether they be the more spectacular stunts common to (or at least claimed by) plain witchcraft in all its forms, or the more subtle nature of a mere "influence," so to speak (e.g., Hitler's ability to mesmerize audiences; I am convinced that it was demonic magic). In either case, "magic" is the natural result of communion with the personalities of the spiritual world (whether they be good or evil), and I believe that this "magic" (as I have defined it) is the weaponry of this warfare. As humans (belonging to the spiritual just as much as the physical), we are capable of utilizing both (although, to be orthodox about it, we are incapable of using [or fully using] the good until salvation by grace).

By the way, as an addendum to my two points in the previous post, I also believe that the spiritual good is more powerful than the spiritual evil, and thus the evil can never ultimately win. My reasons for that are another issue, however. Let's move on to a final issue: ghosts.

-Jon Vowell