Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oswald Chambers and the Law of Antagonism

From Oswald Chamber's book, My Utmost for His Highest:
Life without war is impossible either in nature or in grace. The basis of physical, mental, moral, and spiritual life is antagonism. This is the open fact of life.
Health is the balance between physical life and external nature, and it is maintained only by sufficient vitality on the inside against things on the outside. Everything outside my physical life is designed to put me to death. Things which keep me going when I am alive, disintegrate me when I am dead. If I have enough fighting power, I produce the balance of health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a vigorous mental life, I have to fight, and in that way the mental balance called 'thought' is produced.
Morally it is the same. Everything that does not partake of the nature of virtue is the enemy of virtue in me, and whether I overcome [them] and produce virtue depends on what moral caliber I have. Immediately I fight, I am moral in that particular. No man is virtuous because he cannot help it; virtue is acquired.
It is the same spiritually as well. Jesus said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation," i.e., everything that is not spiritual makes for my undoing, but "be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." I have to learn to score off the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness; then it becomes a delight to meet opposition.

Keep Your Enemies Closer

It is my fervent belief that in order to properly engage error and heresy as critical thinking, engaging Christians, we must have a proper perspective on what those hostile to Christianity actually think. Although there are plenty of books by Christians that explain what they think, sometimes it's better to hear it from the opposition's own mouth. Thus, I submit to you the following comment left on a Christian blog that I stumbled across. I have never heard such a vehement atheistic attitude stated so concisely and precisely. Read carefully, and listen to what is being said:
"It doesn't matter what Hitchens said to you because your mind is made-up, slammed shut. But Hitchens pointed out that the Bible is full of errors, bad science, dangerous dogma and is a man-made and socially constructed book. Anyone who claims to get their morals from this highly immoral book is themselves highly immoral and likely very dangerous, not to mention superstitious and childish. Hitchens opponent was reduced to a babbling idiot and a liar, in other words he was exposed as a typical undereducated fundamentalist wacko. It's pretty obvious Hitchens is a smart guy and this Williams guy is an idiot. This is why debates like this are so rare. The Christians always lose them and look foolish even to many of their own. But not closed-minded people like [you].
"It is not accidental that Christianity regards pride as a major sin. A man of self-esteem is an unlikely candidate for the master-slave relationship that Christianity offers him. A man lacking in self esteem, however, a man ridden with guilt and self-doubt, will frequently prefer the apparent security of Christianity over independence and find comfort in the thought that, for the price of total submissiveness, God will love and protect him.
"In exchange for obedience, Christianity offers salvation, that there is something to be saved from. Christianity has nothing to offer a happy man living in a natural intelligible universe. If Christianity is to gain a motivational foothold, it must declare war on earthly pleasure and happiness, and this, historically, has been its precise course of action. In the eyes of Christianity, man is sinful and helpless in the face of God, and is potential fuel for the flames of hell. Just as Christianity must destroy reason before it can induce faith, so it must destroy happiness before it can induce salvation.
"The fundamental teaching of Jesus-the demand for conformity thus gives rise to a fundamental and viciously destructive teaching of Christianity: That some beliefs lie beyond the scope of criticism, and that to question them is sinful, or morally wrong. By Christianity declares itself and enemy of truth and of the faculty by which man arrives at truth-reason."
Thus is the spirit of atheism. Thus is where the battle lies. Prepare yourselves against them, my friends. Know your God, know your Bible, know your faith, because they obviously have no clue what Christianity really is.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Fallacy of Centrism in American Politics

One of the biggest fallacies ever committed in modern American politics is the fallacy of Centrism, a political ideology that seeks the "middle ground" between different political ideologies. This fallacy has been perpetrated primarily by moderates, who are merely centrist in disguise. Centrism is a fallacy in American politics because within the framework of American politics, Centrism can never work.
By definition, Centrism is the 'happy medium' between extremes, an attempt to not merely compromise between different political ideologies, but actually amalgamate their views to produce more excellent results. It is a very Hegelian in its dialectal approach to things: take the thesis and the antithesis and merge them into a synthesis. Such a political ideology is actually quite ideal for any society, if you live in a society with merely different political views.
It is in that last point that Centrism fails in American politics, for American politics contain only two dominant political ideologies (Liberalism and Conservatism), and they are not different; they are oppositional, i.e., they claim their views to be true and the views of the other to be false, not different. There is no middle ground between the two, no commonality between them that can even begin to serve some sort of open dialogue. Their views of government (big government vs. limited government), economics (socialism vs. free market), and nationality (democracy vs. republic), amongst other things, are irreconcilable, and any attempts to reconcile them are asinine. The "Gang of 10/20" legislation during the summer is a prime example of the futility of trying to arrive at middle roads between oppositional views. You get lame duck legislation, useless pieces of paper that effect nothing.
The sooner we stop this wimpy "let's all get along" attitude, and return to the hard truth that, in American politics, someone is truly wrong and the other truly right, the better. Compromises between polar opposites produces only inaction, as there is no way to satisfy their views without cancelling each other out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A False Dichotomy

While scanning iTunes for new music, I kept running across an annoying thought trend throughout almost every review of the Christian bands I was checking out. The reviews basically said that that these bands not only sing of "Christian" issues like faith, the Bible, and God, (amongst others), but also "non-Christian" issues like pain, angst, doubt, and despair (amongst others). This dichotomy blew my mind. Are there really people out there who actually think that pain, angst, doubt, and despair (amongst others) are not "Christian" issues? Does the ideology that follows Christ, "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," have no say in such things? I think not. There is no such thing as "non-Christian" issues, because Christianity (at bottom) is dealing with the truth, i.e., that which conforms to reality, that which is real and actual. Thus, it touches all issues, and therefore there is no such thing as "non-Christian" issues.
Two things: First, this is not to say that the Bible has a direct answer to everything (ex: no verse directly mentions cloning). As Mr. Schaeffer would say, the Bible gives us true truth, not exhaustive truth. Be that as it may, the Bible still gives us the groundwork whereby we can apply our minds to any and all issues and subjects, and engage anything either directly or indirectly (ex: the Bible does not mention cloning, but it does say something about the proper nature and view of sex and reproduction). No matter what you are engaging, you do not need to check your Christianity at the door.
Second, I am not talking about the whole "sacred/secular" debate (i.e., is there a "sacred" and a "secular," and what are they). That is another thing entirely. What I am talking about (and disputing with) is the notion that there are some issues Christianity does not touch, or worse still, cannot touch. I am defiantly claiming that there are no issues that Christianity does or cannot touch in some way.

Mere Subterfuge

This article by an atheist (let's call him "Quark") proportedly lays down an "unsolvable" puzzle. I would normally ignore such trivial pursuits, but Quark also claims that his puzzle's 'unsolvability' has implications for the existence of God. As such, a gauntlet has been thrown, and I accept it. I will see if I can solve the unsolvable (something we pesky Christians always try to do).
The article is short, but I'll still give a summary. There is an old logic puzzle that asks, "If you came to a crossroads and didn't know which way to go, and two men were standing at the same crossroads, and you knew that one always lies and one always tells the truth, and you can only ask one question to these two men, what one question could you ask them to ascertain the correct way to go?" Somehow, the atheist who wrote this article uses this logic puzzle to "prove" that there is no way to know which religion is right and which one is wrong because (according to him) once you add more liars to the mix, the logic puzzle becomes "unsolvable," i.e., there is no way to tell who is the truth-teller amongst all the liars. I would like to try and solve it if I may (as well as point out a few criticisms).
Quark correctly asserts that the one question you can ask to solve the puzzle is to ask, "Which road would he tell me [is the right way]?" In this scenario, the two men are forced to answer the way the other one would answer. Thus, the liar will lie about the way the truth-teller would say, and therefore say the wrong way; likewise, the truth-teller would truthful tell the way the lair would recommend, which is also the wrong way. Therefore, you would go the opposite direction they both mentioned. So far so good.
Quark goes awry, however, when he claims that adding more liars to the mix (making the lie-truth ratio 4-1) makes the question "unsolvable." You can determine, even in this scenario, who is telling the truth and who is not, and you can do it by asking them all the same exact question: "Which road would they tell me to take?" It works slightly different than before, but the result is the same. It works like this: the truth-teller is the only one who will say that the four other men would say the same thing; conversely, the liars will always say that three of the other men would say the same thing but one would be different.
Remember: according to our scenario, there are still only two ways to go, with only one way being right. The possible lies and truths available to the liars and truth-teller are limited to only two responses: this way or that way. Consequently, the liars will all be in agreement with there answer (because they all lie), but the truth-teller will be the lone dissenter (because he alone tells the truth). Thus (as said before), if the man you ask answers that all four of the other men would say the same thing, you know that you are dealing with the truth-teller; likewise, if the man you ask answers that three of the men would say one thing and one would say another, you know that you are dealing with a liar. Paradoxically, the liar cannot lie about the truth-teller's dissension; if the lairs are saying one way, but the truth-teller another, and there is only two ways to go with only one being right, then no matter what a liar says, he will always have one of the other four as being different.
The result is that you know who is who, and thus you can navigate your decision: whatever the truth-teller says about the other four, you should go the opposite way (because he is truthfully telling what the liars would say, which is a lie); whatever the liars say (watch this!), you should follow whatever direction the liar says that three of the four men say because he will lie about what the liars would say and thus tell you the truth (of course he will lie about the truth-teller, who you will recognize because he is the only dissenter)! Liars lying about liar's lies and thus telling the truth; as you can see, Quark was dead wrong when he said the scenario was "unsolvable". Quite the contrary, the puzzle actually becomes easier, because you will easily know who is who and which way to go because the liars will lie about the other liar's lies and thus tell you the truth (which you will be able to identify). In addition, this scenario can work no matter how many liars you insert, because you can always identify the truth-teller as the lone dissenter (and the liars will always lie about liar's lies, etc.). Thus, I have solved the "unsolvable" puzzle. Since I obviously won't be getting a cookie for my efforts, I will move on to my criticisms.
Quark makes a logical snafu when he tries to apply his "unsolvable" scenario to world religions. First of all, the scenario is no longer "unsolvable." It is actually easier to solve. Thus, his hopes to use his unsolvable puzzle for atheistic purposes are utterly dashed, as his original scenario no longer works for his purposes.
Second of all, however, even if the original scenario was indeed "unsolvable," it would still not apply for one small yet vital reason: in the original scenario, there are only two paths with one right way; in the world religions analogy, however, there are now multiple paths with only one right way. Since the structure of the puzzle has fundamentally changed (for the number of paths is key to the puzzle), any applications made in the original puzzle cannot apply to this new analogy because this new analogy is based on a completely different puzzle: the puzzle has changed from a two path/one right way structure to a multiple path/one right way structure. This analogy has introduced a scenario that is fundamentally different from the original scenario, and thus Quark's attempts to apply the original scenario to this new scenario is erroneous.
Let's look at this new puzzle laid down by Quark: "Imagine we replace the town [you are trying to reach] with Heaven, and replace the men with a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim, and add a road for each. How can you determine who is telling the truth and who is not?" Quark's solution? "All you can do is just pick a direction and go." What's his conclusion then? "That doesn't seem like something that was set up by the supreme intellect in the universe. That strategy violates the principle of minimizing as much uncertainty as possible to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome."
Now, the short (and Christian) answer to the puzzle is that God is not only there (i.e., He exist) but is also not silent (i.e., He has made Himself known). Aside from general revelation (i.e., creation [Romans 1:19, 20] and mankind's "mannishness" [Romans 2:12-15]), there is special revelation: the word (i.e., the Bible) and the Word (i.e., the Incarnation [John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:1-4]). Not only did God drop signs of His presence in our world and in ourselves, He also wrote a book and came down in person to tell us that He is there and all that He says is true. In Quark's scenario, this is the equivalent of the owner and founder of the town coming down to you and telling you, "That's the right way." Then he leaves you his notes on the subject so you do not forget what He said. This same scenario can not only answer this multiple path/one right way scenario, but also the "black box" scenario (i.e., you can know what is inside the impenetrable box if what is inside the box [1] is there, and [2] is not silent).
Of course, atheists will claim, "The bible is full of errors!" "Jesus never existed!" "The Bible's claims have been disproved!" "Jesus was not God!" That is my point, however. I have just spent the last few paragraphs solving an "unsolvable" logic puzzle that could be applied to world religions only to find that the whole atheistic argument here was not about a logic puzzle or world religions at all; this was about Christ and the Bible. Quark's world religion scenario is unsolvable only if you assume that Christ and the Bible (as well as creation and man's humanity) are discounted from the get-go. It sounds like Quark is doing a new thing, but he is not. He is simply dressing up old issues in new clothes, clothes that do not fit or even match. His "unsolvable logic puzzle" is mere subterfuge disguising the real issues, which are Christ and the Bible, not the presence of world religions against the reality of God; if Christ is God and the Bible is true, then the presence of world religions is irrelevant in regards to the reality of God.
To my fellow believers, remember: to be an engaging, critically thinking Christian means you hear the issues behind the issues. Atheists will mount what seems to be innumerable arguments against your faith, but do not be fooled; they are merely blowing smoke to cover the few real issues that they actually have. The real issues are were the battles must be fought, and atheist's smokescreens will only serve to cloud the issues from you. You must learn to disperse such clouds.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I.D. Required

One of the common themes touted amongst postmodern/emergent types is the despisement of metanarratives (i.e., a worldview, an overarching structure of concepts that inform your view of the world). A direct result of this despisement is the outcry, "Don't label me!" What people mean when they say that is that they do not want others fitting them within the confines of some sort of metanarritive-esque definable category. To be placed in such a definable category is considered an enslavement to that definition and category; to be "labelled" is to be imprisoned within a metanarrative. For postmodern/emergents, it is an atrocity to be labelled, and a cardinal sin to label others.
This despisement of "labels" is ludicrous, however, because it is fundamentally flawed in its views of what a "label" is. The fundamental assumption wherein postmodern/emergent types are in error is the assumption that a "label" is an arbitrary assignment from outside your person, i.e., it is another person making you into the label, or requiring that you be the label. Common sense requires that such an assumption is ludicrous. When I "label" a painting Cubist or a philosophy Nihilistic, I am not making those things anything; I am merely responding to what I actually see. I may be well-informed yet still wrong in my response, but it is still a response, i.e., a passive and not active action. When I (or anyone else) "labels" anything or anyone, that is not an act of creation, but an act of identification; I am attempting (like any rational human being) to understand what I am engaging. This should be embarrassingly obvious: I do not make a person a Christian/Republic/Liberal/Atheist/Realist/Apathetic/etc. by calling them that any more than me calling them a "dog"will give them a furry tail and wet nose.
This erroneous assumption that flaws postmodern/emergent despisement of "labels" is the result of a misunderstanding about beliefs. It is not people that make you this or that; it is your beliefs that make you this or that. Like it or not, your beliefs make you something. Even if you believed that there are no beliefs (a true contradiciton), that still makes you something; and that something is a real something. Even if there is not a label discovered are stated yet that properly defines the real thing that you are, that real thing is still there; and when people engage it, when they engage you, they will seek to understand (and therefore "label") you. "Labels" are not arbitrary assignments, but response to and expressions of what is really there, a response to and expression of you. "Labels" are not tyrants; they are revelations. Without them, you could never begin to identify who you are, and concretely identifying who you are (in any way) is vital to your humanity.
I am a Christian Protestant Baptist, Federalist Republic Conservative, Logocentric Trinitarian, Fantasy Realist, already-but-not-yet, resurrected-fallen lover of pie. These are not arbitrary assignments given to me by others. I was not made into these by the tyranny of metanarratives; I assigned them to myself after I discovered (through much prayer and critical thinking) that I really am those things. They are my "labels," and I dare not part with them! They help me state concretely and definitely (if not still incompletely) who I am, and such knowledge serves as a reference point to help me navigate myself through the world.
"Labels" are a matter of identity, not slavery. The only true slavery is confusion and doubt; the only true freedom is stability and certainty. Knowledge--concrete, certain, actual knowledge--is indeed power. If you do not "know," then you are helpless, lost in a fog. Should not that be obvious, though? Practical experience reveals that a man is at his most helpless when he has "no idea" of what to do, where to go, or what is going on. It is only when he knows some things that he has the power to act.
That is not nonsense; it is a bare truth about existence. All doing is dependent upon being. Who you are defines what you will do; action requires an I.D. If you do not know who you are, then what can you do? In truth, nothing. You cannot vote (for you do not know what issues you stand for), you cannot learn (for you do not know what type of learner you are, or what things you want to learn), you cannot dream (for you do not know what you desire), you cannot love (for you do not know what kind of love you seek), you cannot laugh (for you do not know what you find funny), you cannot cry (for you do not know what hurts you), you cannot worship (for you do not know what beauty is), you cannot fight (for you do not know what is worth fighting for), you cannot help (for you do not know what is wrong), you cannot hurt (for you do not know what is wrong with you), you cannot create (for you do not know what your tools are, or what is worth creating), you cannot destroy (for, again, you do not know what your tools are, or what is worth destroying), you cannot stand (for you do not know what you should stand for), you cannot sit out (for you do not know what you should ignore), etc., etc. In every case, you are in the ninth circle of Hell, frozen solid, truly a slave and in prison.
If, however, you know who you are; if you have found your "labels," then you have the power to do. You can vote and everything else because you know (in some way) who you are dealing with when you deal with yourself. Identification is not a slavery, nor is it arbitrary assignments. Definable categories are not your enemy; they are navigation points by which you can navigate yourself through yourself. If you are (in any way) certain of your self, then you have found a true freedom.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The "Problem" of Evil

I believe I speak from experience (however minor) that the only real substantive argument that atheists have against Christianity is the so called "Problem of Evil." Frankly, all their other arguments besides that one are trivial at best and idiotic at worst. Because the Problem of Evil (POE) is consider such a stalwart opponent, I feel that I have not lived up to my obligations as a critical thinking believer until I have engaged (however badly) this impressive beast. So, for better or for worse, here is my attempt to add my two cents into the long debated subject. I have no doubt my own small pebble will do nothing in the collective sea of human thought other than to serve as a reminder to myself of my own ideas.

Let's begin by saying what POE is. It goes something like this (and you have probably heard this before): "God is good. God is all-powerful. If God were good and all-powerful, He would not allow evil to exist. Evil does exist, however, so God must not be good, all-powerful, or both." Here it is in short: if God is good and all-powerful, then why is there evil, and why does it continue? That is the insurmountable question leveled against Christianity, the rocks upon which many a faith has supposedly wrecked.
The answer to POE is so blindingly obvious, however, that once I (quite unexpectedly) fumbled upon it, I began to seriously question what all the fuss was about. It also made me sad, because the implications of POE's persistance in the marketplace of ideas is that Christians have suffered a serious bout of amnesia in regards to their own foundational doctrines. It is the equivalent of a bard forgetting a story that he has told for years (incuding just yesterday); it is inexcusable.
POE is answered by the simple reassertion of Christian doctrine; namely, that there are two sides to the story of God and man: one side is the Fall; the other side is the Cross. Both of those sides serve as an answer to POE that puts it to bed so suddenly and quickly before the eyes of mortal men that its simplicity may be its only weakness (as honest men may not take it seriously). It is, however, the foolishness of philosophic thinking to demand complexity on all counts; simple things can level entire kingdoms faster than convoluted argumentation. POE itself stands as a prime example of this; its simplicity is its true venom. It is also its downfall, however, since simple questions usually incur (after much thinking) simple answers; and I am defiantly proclaiming that the Christian answer to POE is simple.
As to why evil is, the Fall is the response; a response as simple yet as shocking as lightning. I could hazard some sort of ridiculous commentary here, but I believe better men have put the issue of the Fall in a much more adequate and simple fashion. Francis Schaeffer was one such man, and he put it this way:

Christianity's answer [to evil's existence] rests in the historic, space-time, real and complete Fall. The true Christian position is that in space and time and history, there was an unprogrammed man who made a choice, and actually rebelled against God. (From Escape From Reason)

The presence and continuance of evil on earth is the result of man's choice, leading to fallen men and a fallen creation (
I Corinthians 15:21, 22 & Romans 8:19-22). The Fall gives meaning to both men making evil choices and a world breeding disease and disaster. All men are wounded, and so is their world.
As to what God is doing about all this, the Cross is the equally simple yet shocking response. According to Christianity, there were only two ways God could have "dealt" with evil when the Fall happened. First of all, He could have destroyed us. Such a response would not have satisfied POE for two reasons: firstly, there would be no one to question God and thus no one to ask POE in the first place; and secondly, such a response would reveal God to be indeed all-powerful, but not good, since He is meeting evil with evil (i.e., destroying all things). Thus it would prove POE's point: God is not God if He answers in such a way.
The second way God could have dealt with evil, the way He did take, the way for which we fall on our knees and worship Him, is that He could have saved us. This, of course, is the whole meaning behind the mysterious and immutable reality that is the Incarnation. In response to honest men asking, "What has the good, all-powerful God done about evil," we can most definitely say, "Good sir, it is Christ." Romans 5:8 is the summation of Christian apologetic thought on the subject of what God is "doing" (or has done) with evil.

Objections can be raised. One is that if God is all-powerful, why is destruction and salvation His only options? Why not instead prevent evil from happening at all, or prevent it from continuing to happen? I have heard something like this before, and I am afraid that it does not escape the same problem that occurs when God decides to destroy us, i.e., in order for God to do what is good (i.e., deal with evil) He must do something that is evil (i.e., removing freewill). Again, God is revealed as merely all-powerful and not good; He is no longer God.
Another objection that can be raised is that if salvation (through the Cross of Christ) is God's response to evil, His way of "dealing" with it, then why not save everybody and be done with it? The answer is the same as before: that would be God meeting evil with evil (i.e., removing freewill). Like evil actions, salvation is a choice, though, unlike evil actions, it is not a choice between doing or not doing, but rather between receiving or not receiving. Evil is an active choice; salvation is a passive one (which is why Christianity has often described it as a "surrender"). If you receive the salvation of Christ, all well and good; if you reject it, however, then you are (for your part) responsible for the continuance of evil. Salvation is God's dealing with evil; rejecting it is tantamount to saying, "I'm sorry, sir, but I very much like evil, and wish it to continue."
The Fall and the Cross are Christianity's final and only answer to POE. Any answer that does not include them is asinine, and ultimately satisfies no one. In response to POE (and all of its proponents), we defiantly say this: it is mankind who chose to unleash Hell on earth, and God who chose to send Heaven to earth. You can be mad at men who perpetuate evil by committing evil acts or by rejecting salvation; you can even be mad (as you should be) at the Church for being slack in its job of proclaiming the gospel; but enough of this childish nonsense that blames evil on God, or uses evil to disprove God. He has chosen to save us and not destroy us (or our freewill), and has sent people (including Himself) to bring us His salvation. What more would you have Him do?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Return of a Pet Peeve

Early on in this blog's life, a reoccuring theme of mine was the devestating effects that removing the doctrine of Sin have on the gospel. Past examples of my concerns can be found here and here.
One of my fellow bloggers reignited my interest in the subject (if only for a moment) by posting this excellent article on his blog. I recommend reading his entry entitled "Smart Baptist" (which contains a link to the article).
In times like these (when the gospel is turned into a cloak for political or consumerism agendas), I like to read more G.K. Chesterton (a Catholic) and Oswald Chambers (a Protestant) because both of these men firmly point to the fundamental reality of Sin and the fundamental reality of Redemption (and to the fact that without a proper view of the fundamental reality of Sin, there is no proper view of the fundamental reality of Redemption).

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Letter to Limbaugh on Hypocritical Lunacy

I sent this letter in an email to Rush Limbaugh yesterday. I have posted it here to display the rare occasion when I touch on politics:

Even though I know that the liberal left is nothing but a pack of two-faced powermongers ready to do whatever it takes to secure more power towards implementing their liberal agenda of socialism and big government, I am ashamed to say that I still find myself flabbergasted at the audacious lengths of hypocrisy that the left is willing to go to in order to win an election. Their recent rantings about Sarah Palin and the RNC have completed frustrated my natural human inclination towards intelligent thought.

So let me get this straight:
  1. The liberal left that wore as a feather in its cap the liberation of women from the unbearable chains of motherhood is now attacking Sarah Palin for being a "bad mother" because she took the VP nomination?
  2. The liberal left that crusaded tirelessly for the emancipation of a woman's sexuality out from under the tyranny of archaic and patriarchal constructs such as "matrimony" is now attacking Palin's daughter for having a child out of wedlock?
  3. The liberal left that constantly brandishes "separation of church and state" like a rapier and is a well known enemy of traditional Christianity now cites God's wrath and vengeance in regards to Gustav's "interruption" of the RNC earlier this week?
I know that I should not be surprised at the willingness of the liberal left to throw every cherished belief that they claim to have under enumerable buses, and sacrifice every sacred cow they have on the altar of their agenda; but the above mentioned examples of hypocritical lunacy just frustrate me to no end. It has given me considerably cruel headaches.

I endure my headaches, however, and here is why: I know that all of the latest nonsense spewing forth from the liberal left is merely signs of desperation. Palin has scared them to death, McCain is gaining more momentum, and the Messiah's downfall is looming like the twilight of the gods. It is desperate times for the liberal left, and desperate times do call for desperate measures. Thus, I endure all my headaches because I know that all of the latest bile from the left is merely them refusing to see the death throes of their once thought invincible campaign for the presidency. It is a fun (yet still frustrating) spectacle to watch.

Monday, August 25, 2008

On Immortality (or, Why the Universe is Out to Kill Us)

A common buzz amongst Scientism and futurists types is how one day (in a galaxy far, far away) humanity will (through genetic manipulation and technological augmentation) be able to defeat death and become immortal. This, of course, is nonsense. There is no way for you to make yourself immortal; it is impossible.
Common sense would say that it would be (at the very least) difficult: even if you somehow stopped the aging process and completely immunized yourself, it does not matter--there is always the possibility of the emergence of a new disease or condition not yet discovered or considered, or the possibility that you will be hit by a bus.
Common sense, however, only tells us why human manufactured immortality would be difficult. To see why it is impossible, we must use our imagination for a second. Imagine a human (maybe the last one) who has, indeed, become "immortal" in every sense that this person could be: they have somehow stopped the aging process, immunized themselves against all diseases known and unknown, and have placed themselves in an environment where they are completely safe and sustained. Even then, immortality is not and cannot be obtained, for the following reasons:
Immortality (i.e., always being) is not contingent upon you; it is contingent upon the reality that you live in, upon the plane of existence that you inhabit. Unless your reality is immortal (always being), or eternal (has been and always will be), you will not be immortal, no matter what genetic or technological wonders you invoke.. Simply put: if your universe dies, you die with it. If you inhabit a dying universe (and therefore are a part of a dying universe), then immortality is negated as a manufactured possibility (for we "manufacture" with what we have, and all that we have is a part of our dying universe).
We, of course, do inhabit a dying universe. Even science knows that the universe (or at least our universe) will die; it may take a few billion years, it may be a "big crunch" or a falling apart, but it will happen. Thus, even if you somehow managed to achieve the aforementioned conditions of "immortality," you will only live until the universe dies, until it collapses or "runs away," or until the Sun burns out, until all suns burn out, until entropy finishes its deathly task and all energy is expended, equilibrium is reached, and everything (including "immortals") freezes and becomes static, cold, and dark. Again, a dying universe negates the possibility of manufactured immortality or immortal beings.
Since a dying universe creates the impossibility of manufactured immortality (and since we inhabit a dying universe), therefore the only way to guarantee the possibility of immortality is to: (1) somehow guarantee the immortality of the universe (i.e., keep the engine running); (2) find something (or someone) that can guarantee the immortality of the universe; (3) find another universe (preferably one that is immortal/eternal); or (4) find something (or someone) that is separate from (and yet still in contact with) our universe that can give immortality to either us, our universe, or both. Unless one of those four ways is satisfied, humanity's desire to make themselves immortal will be an eternal chasing of the wind.

(Note: To see the Christian stance, look here.)

The Great Escape

I found an excellent article by an ex-atheist writing about how he escaped atheism, or (as he put it) escaped from nihilism.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Further Frustrations

Several months ago, I mentioned my frustrations in dealing with atheism. Now I want to give a practical example. A random atheist (signed in as "anonymous") told me to check out this "well researched" (his words) site in regards to all of the "lies" that Christianity is founded on. I checked it out, and all I can say is if that site is what is consider "well researched," then perhaps you (my readers) will understand my frustrations a little better. Citing old, long debunked atheistic arguments ("Jesus never even existed"), idiotic statements ("following a star would only lead you in circles"; they do not even understand the basics of navigation!), and the quoting of verses that butchers the context and reveals a severe lack of understanding in regards to textual criticism, only furthers my conviction that atheists really have no clue what they are talking about.
I am never surprised by these things; what else can you expect from those who deny the existence of a source of ultimate Truth? Still, that such nonsense is touted as "enlightenment" makes my blood boil.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Greatest Proof for Black and White

One of the things that I love to do occasional (okay, I do it a lot) is to list blatant foolishness masquerading as wisdom and gleefully tear it to shreds from the top down. It is time again for me to vent, so in the words of Mr. Bean: "Brace yourself."
Today's candidate is this little pseudo-pearl of wisdom: "We know that there is no such thing as absolute good or evil because we know that everything is so complicated. We know that there is no black or white because everything is so gray." This statement is ludicrous for the following reasons:
  1. Gray needs black and white in order to exist (I speak in a moral sense, but even if I was referring to colors, I would still be right). In the realm of morals, you can have no concept of grayness without black and white, just like you can have no concept of "the middle" unless there really are two extremes. The very existence of the concept of a neutral ground is completely contingent upon there being non-neutral grounds. Without the concept of non-neutral grounds, neutrality losses all meaning; the same is true in regards to a middle with no extremities, or gray without black and white. They need each other in order to exist; the presence of one is directly dependent upon the presence of the other.
  2. Likewise, without a concept of absolute good and evil, then there are no "complications," for the "complications" (in order to even be complications) need absolute good and evil to exist in order to exist themselves. The very concept of moral complications is completely contingent upon the concept of absolute morals.
Should not this all be obvious, though? Ask yourself: why do these "complications" arise? What makes something morally complicated? Well, generally speaking, complications arise because we see good and evil in the same situation. For example, a man is willing to commit terrible atrocities (evil) in order to save the life of one who he loves dearly (good). That situation is most definitely complicated, but to claim that it is proof against the existence of absolute good and evil is completely idiotic. The only reason that this situation is "complicated" at all is because the "evil" that the man is doing really is something evil, and the "good" that he is doing really is something good. If good and evil disappear, then his actions are no longer "good" or "bad" actions; they are simply actions: "The man did something in order to do something else." There's nothing "complicated" about that (or interesting for that matter).
Far from being the greatest proof against good and evil, moral complications turn out to be the greatest proof for absolute good and evil. The greatest proof that black and white exist is the gray. That is what we call sweet, sweet irony.

The End of Atheism

My last two posts have been dealing with a response that I got from an atheist (who I am calling Alec), and within them I revealed the inherent weakness of atheistic reasoning. I have unfortunately, one last flaw to reveal in his logic, and because it is not the biggest flaw he had, this will seem more like a parting shot than anything else. However, I cannot let such a glaring error pass by me unchallenged and unexposed.
Alec began his response thusly: "Atheists are not obligated to follow your or anyone else's idea of what atheism is. Not Nietzsche's, not Wells', nobody's." Now, what is he actually saying? What he is actually saying is this: there is no fixed definition of atheism. No one is the authority on atheism (not even atheists themselves: "Not Nietzsche's, not Wells', nobody's") and thus all definitions are mere subjective opinions that carry no real weight in regards to atheism's actual definition. Thus, just because Nietzsche or Wells (or myself) say atheism is such-and-such, Alec is under no obligation to believe us because there is no authoritative statement on atheism, only opinions on atheism that can be believed or discarded at will and/or preference. What's atheism to you may not be atheism to me, and what's atheism to me may not be atheism to you.
Alec shoots himself in the foot, however, within the very next sentence: "Atheism is defined thusly: The absence of a belief in a god. Period. End of definition." Okay, first he tells me that there is no fixed, authoritative definition of atheism, then he goes and defines atheism in an attempt to convince me that that is what true atheism is. If there is no fixed, authoritative definition of atheism, then by what grounds am I obligated to believe that his definition is any more truer than Nietzsche's or Wells' (or my own, for that matter)? If there is no ultimate idea of what atheism is, if all is merely subjective opinion, then how do you even begin to have a standard by which you can measure what atheism is? You cannot; without a fixed definition, all attempts to completely define atheism are lost, including Alec's complete definition ("complete" by his addition of "Period. End of definition").
Contrary to what you may be thinking, I am not twisting his words; I am hearing what he is actually saying (whether he knew it or not). Because he equally dismissed Nietzsche and Wells as well as me, apparently even atheist's definitions are not immune from the whole "[we] are not obligated to follow your or anyone else's idea of what atheism is." And because Alec is himself an atheist, that means that his own definition is not immune either. Therefore, it is equally as subjective and dismissible as Nietzsche's, Wells', or my own. In an attempt to remove any grounds for me to define atheism, he has removed any grounds for himself to define atheism.
"We are the (currently living) atheists and we will decide what the word means." If the word does not have a fixed, authoritative definition, and if no one (not even atheists) can give one, then how in the world am I to believe that any definition you all come up with is the true definition? What is there to prevent future atheists from saying, "We are not obligated to follow your or anyone else's idea of what atheism is. Not Dawkins', not Alec's, nobody's"? There is nothing to prevent it. In addition, if atheism has no fixed, authoritative definition, then chronological location ("currently living") is irrelevant; if the very idea of atheism cannot be authoritatively defined by anyone, then that includes "currently living" atheists as well as dead ones.
The further problem with atheism lacking a fixed, authoritative definition is even more devastating for Alec. If no one can define atheism (not even atheists), then we cannot know what it actually is; and if we cannot know what it actually is, then the very idea of "atheism" has no meaning. Therefore, we cannot know whether or not atheism exist at all. Ideas must have meaning (a fixed, authoritative substance) to them in order to exist. If someone says, "I don't believe in God," we can call that belief whatever we want to, but we cannot call it atheism, because (according to Alec's own logic) atheism is indefinable, and thus even the statement "I don't believe in God" cannot be called "atheism" because no one knows what the heck atheism even is! In this scenario, where atheism is indefinable, atheism as an idea ceases to exist. Making atheism indefinable is the end of atheism.
I do not believe that Alec meant to say all that, nor do I believe that all atheists are as dumb as my entries may make them sound like. What I do believe is exactly what I said in my previous post: when placed in the fires of logic and reason, atheists (though perhaps well-meaning and sincere) simply have not or do not think out their own ideas to their logical conclusions. Every time I read one of their blog posts, every time I read one of their essays or articles, every time, I remember what a friend of mine once said, "In order to be an atheist, you must be willing to live with certain logical inconsistencies."

"Boy's philosophies..."

"Atheism is too simple.... [It is a] boy's philosophy." -C.S. Lewis

In my previous post, I demonstrated how the response I received from an atheist (I'll call him Alec, b/c it's a cool name) showed the results of epistemological nihilism, i.e., how claiming that there are "no authorities" reduces all arguments (including atheistic arguments) to absurdity and non-existence. I showed how, in an attempt to silence my arguments, Alec was willing (whether he realized it or not) to demolish the very foundations of argumentation itself in order to win the argument, i.e., he was trying to argue that there are no arguments, which is an obvious contradiction. That was perhaps the most fatal flaw of his whole response.
I am not finished, however. There is yet another flaw I wish to expose, a flaw which that same response demonstrated perfectly, a flaw that (though not quite as fatal as the first one) still demonstrates the inherent weaknesses in atheistic reasoning.
Angry at my implication that atheism can philosophically lead to nihilism, Alec (speaking for all atheist: "We are the (currently living) atheists") decided to instruct my unlearned mind on what atheism really is: "Atheism is defined thusly: The absence of a belief in a god. Period. End of definition." What this response demonstrates is the supreme naiveté that apparently most atheists are working under (if Alec is truly speaking for all of them). This supreme naiveté is the assumption that ideas do not have consequences, i.e., that absence of a belief in a god merely means that and nothing more (aside from the freedom "to consider any other set of values you wish.")
Atheism is not as simple as "absence of a belief in a god," however, and the reason why is because the question of God/god(s) is no mere simple inquiry. It is the prime question, the question dealing with prime reality, with what is the source of all things. When you are asking the question about God/god(s), you are not merely saying something about supernatural entities; you are really asking the question, "What is really real; what is fundamental reality?" The God/god(s) question is the first and foundational question in regards to shaping your worldview. The answer that you give to that question will directly affect the way the rest of your worldview turns out, including your answers to: What is the nature of external reality? What is a human being? What happens after death? Can we know anything? How do we determine what is right and wrong? What is the meaning of human history? etc. The question about God/god(s) is alot weightier than Alec seems willing to allow for himself (and all atheists).
As such, atheism does not end at "absence of a belief in a god." That statement is a presupposition that must be thought out to its logical conclusion(s), i.e., "What does it mean if there is no God/god(s)?" I had mentioned that philosophical atheism will logically lead to nihilism, and Alec took except to that; but he preceded to give me no alternative logical conclusion except that atheism sets one free from religion, which is a tautology (a philosophical "no duh"). That atheism only sets one free from religious institutions and principles is only surface scratchings. What does it mean to be absent from a belief in God/god(s)?
I tried to mention to my friend that Nietzsche realized that, if there is no God, if we are merely a conglomeration of molecules that came together purely by chance through arational, random, natural forces, then we are merely puppets trapped in the system of natural cause and effect, and our actions have no more meaning to them because they are not our actions, but random acts of nature imposed on us by nature through cause and effect happenings that we know nothing of (you can find this in his book Human, All too Human). Thus we have the complete loss of meaning to our actions, and thus all loss of meaning period (he also realized this in his work "The Madman").
I tried to mention to my friend that H.G. Wells realized that if there is no God, then man is merely left to himself, and is solely dependent and reliant upon his own devices; and after seeing two world wars, Wells concluded that if man's only hope is man, then man is doomed (you can find this in his book Mind at the End of its Tether). Thus we have the complete loss of hope in "human potential." We are our own worst enemy, and we cannot save ourselves; and since there is no God, then there is no one to save us from ourselves. Therefore, again, we are doomed.
That wasn't good enough for him, though; so now I must quote from another atheist, a modern atheist, a contemporary atheist, a current atheist, a "we atheists". Prominent atheistic evolutionary biologist and historian William Provine of Cornell University put it this way: if there is no God, then (1) there is no life after death, (2) there is no foundation for right and wrong, (3) there is no ultimate meaning for life, and (4) people do not really have free will (you can find this in Phillip E. Johnson's book Darwin on Trial, as well as Ben Stein's documentary Expelled). This man is living today (though I hear that he has cancer). He is, therefore, one of the "we atheist" that my friend was speaking of, and apparently Provine disagrees with my friend on what exactly atheism is, because he has looked beyond mere surface scratchings to logical conclusions.
What do Nietzsche, Wells and Provine all have in common? They all moved beyond childish atheism, beyond naive ideas, and went onward to the consequences of those ideas. They all possessed the courage and maturity to look their belief's conclusions square in the eye and be honest about it. Some were honest to a fault (Nietzsche committed suicide), but they all were more honest than Alec was. He believes in a "boy's philosophy," a kiddie belief that does not see or does not want to see the true logical conclusions of its own belief system; atheists who have seen the conclusions are summarily dismissed as irrelevant. This is not adult thinking, but childish naiveté that refuses to grow up and face the reality of their own ideas.

P.S. For a well done, easy to understand perspective on what atheism's logical conclusions are and how it reaches them, I recommend James W. Sire's book The Universe Next Door

Monday, May 19, 2008

The End of Knowledge

While engaging some atheists in what I thought was a debate, I cited some written authorities (per typical rhetorical practices) that bolster my point. They, however, in the most spellbinding work of sorcery that I have ever seen, immediately dismissed my citation, and I found my entire argument dashed upon the rocks. This was not necessarily because they had a better argument; on the contrary, the had no argument. What they had was this: Appeals to authority are logically fallacious because there is/are no authority/authorities. At that moment, I realized exactly what I was dealing with: the old "we know that we cannot know" argument, one of the most commonplace, blatant postmodern contradictions. My opponents were, in effect, trying to win by arguing against argument itself, and there is no way to win against such self-refuting nonsense; it's like hitting your head against a brick wall.
I have gotten ahead of myself. Allow me to expand. In a rhetorical debate, "appeals to authority" specifically means to appeal to the written word of an expert. Generally speaking, however, all rhetorical devices and modes of reasoning appeal to some kind of authority:
  • Citation: appeals to the authority of the written word of an expert in such-and-such field or study.
  • Logos: appeals to the authority of logic; what is and is not so.
  • Ethos: appeals to the authority of morality/ethics; what ought and ought not to be.
  • Pathos: appeals to the authority of emotions: what ought and ought not to be felt about such-and-such or so-and-so.
  • Examples: appeals to the authority of history in regards to practical demonstrations of an argument.

All arguments rely upon one or more of these authorities; and because all arguments rely on them, there is no argument(s) without them. This is (quite frankly) common sense: you cannot even begin to argue about anything unless you somehow know good and well in the back of your mind that there is some authoritative, objective, absolute ground(s) to which you can appeal to by which you can argue, i.e., you must know that you can know. Again, this is just common sense.

The statement "Appeals to authority are logically fallacious because there is/are no authority/authorities" is a contradiction in two ways: (1) It relies on the authority of logic ("logically fallacious"); if there is no authority of any kind, however, then logic cannot be used anymore than citation can. They have refuted themselves. (2) If there is no authority of any kind, then (as already stated) there is no argument(s); all arguments are suspended. Nay, they are completely destroyed, and all statements become either (at best) mildly interesting subjective anomalies, or (at worst) meaningless wastes of time. They told me that there is no authority, and yet they were so willing to argue with me about it! You cannot argue without authority(ies). Again, they have refuted themselves. As stated at the beginning, in order to win the argument, they are willing to destroy argument itself. There is no way to deal with such nonsense except to ignore it.

Back in January, I wrote this blog article, which dealt with how, in order to debunk Christianity's historical claims and proofs, an atheist was willing to debunk history itself. This, of course, is another self-refuting argument (atheists have historical claims and proofs too; read the article to see). Both that (the debunking of history) and this (the debunking of argument) are symptoms of the same problem: epistemological nihilism, i.e., we know that we cannot know. It is one of the most idiotic contradictions in the world, or the most hypocritical, for as we have seen, those who hold to it conveniently exempt their own knowledge from it. They must live parasitically off of knowledge, off of authority(ies), in order to do away with them. Epistemological nihilism is a common error of the postmodern era; be wary of it, my friends, and give it no allowance. It is foolishness masquerading as wisdom.

When my opponents first told me that appeals to authority were logically fallacious, my initial response was tongue-in-cheek: "By what authority do you say that?" Only now do I realize that that is the crux of the whole matter, that that is the key question that exposes the whole contradiction. The loss of authority(ies) is the end of argument, and thus is the end of any attainment of knowledge. Ergo, epistemological nihilism.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Departing from my usual course of action, I will deal with this atheist article quickly (because it deserves nothing more) and then vent my frustrations (if you, dear reader, care to hear them). The article's basic claim is that God is more evil than all atheistic/secular governments/institutions combined because he continually slaughters biological life (nay, all of creation) with horrible diseases. How could a "loving" God do such a thing! Answer: He didn't, and He doesn't. To demonstrate this, I will answer each the question's that the article asked:
  1. "When were all the harmful viruses, germs, bacteria and parasites created?" Viruses, germs, bacteria, and parasites are all (except for viruses) living organisms, and are a part of the material world. Thus, God created them (which answers the second question that the article asked). Notice, however, that the key word in that question is "harmful." By themselves, viruses, germs, bacteria, and parasites are either harmless or even helpful (like the bacteria that help digestion or that eat away dead skin cells). What makes these things "harmful" is when they become carriers, and therefore transmitters, of disease. Therefore, we must distinguish between two things in regards to our answer to this question: God created the biological life and material components, but He did not create disease. Disease (along with other things) is a result of the Fall: "For the wages of Sin is death." (Romans 6:23) Disease, suffering, death, corruption, and evil are all aberrations of the created order. God did not put them their; they came because of man's choice.
  2. "Who, other than God / Yahweh himself, could create?" See answer 1.
  3. "If this was the intended effects on humans after the Fall with their forced removal from the Garden of Eden, than why did God even go though the motion of tempting Eve and Adam in the first place since this harmful creation was already created and simply waiting on them outside the Garden?" (sigh) First of all, neither the Fall nor its effects were "intended," as though God wanted them to happen. Second of all, the creation was not "harmful" when it was "created." It was good when it was created (read Genesis 1--"and God saw that it was good"). I will not state anything further, because I have already dealt with this nonsense here and here, and I refuse to repeat myself.
  4. "If man (as a sinful creature) alone is the target of these harmful and deadly acts of creation (as one Christian doctor tried to tell me), than exactly why are both plants and animals also affected by harmful viruses, germs, bacteria and parasites?" A "Christian" doctor told you what? It has been (since Christianity's inception) a part of orthodox belief that the whole of creation was affected by the Fall, not just man. Either the doctor was misunderstood (which happens), or he was smoking something serious.
My frustrations are not with these questions in regards to my faith; after all, I did answer them. My frustrations are two: (1) with such questions per se, and subsequently (2) with the state of Christianity in the realm of fundamentals and orthodoxy. I have spoken of these frustrations here before, but I wish to say just a little more.
When I was young (or younger) I typically stayed away from anything that was antagonistic to my faith, and that was a good thing; you should not engage things until you are equipped to handle them (never engage a tank with a fork). However, other then not being ready to engage such antagonism, all forms of doubt and skepticism (whether it was atheistic, agnostic, or devil's advocate) had a numinous horror to it, like it was something monumental and grand, a challenge and obstacle that all must face but many have failed at beating. There is a terror in the thought that there are real and stated doubts about what you think is obvious.
Needless to say, when I got educated (both intellectually and spiritually), I felt that it was time to see what's out there in the world of doubt. After all, if you are not capable of dealing with the "tough" issues laid before you by skeptics, what kind of faith do you have? So I read atheistic articles and blog postings, and even read Bertrand Russell's now (in)famous essay. Every time I read (and still read) something like that, the resulting effect inside me is always the same: sheer, utter disappointment.
When I write about atheistic anything, I want to do it while being amiable and polite (while still being forceful and blunt). After all, I'm not here to merely win an argument, but lead people to the truth; and by that, lead them to the Gospel. Apologetics and evangelism go hand-in-hand. Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel great frustration whelm up within me as I stumble over one idiocy to the next. Every argument I have run into, every supposedly great and crushing argument, has always been the same thing: a ridiculous montage of slip-shod thinking, faulty logic, contradictions, straw-man arguments, emotional rants, misunderstandings and misinterpretations and misquotings of Scripture and/or doctrine, arrogance, and personal vendettas. Perhaps this is all my fault; perhaps I set my expectations to high; but, darn it, I was expecting more than what I've gotten (and still get) so far.
This frustration, however, leads to my second and real frustration. Ignorance is only a crime for those who should know better. Atheist do not know any better; Christians do. The fact that atheists can have such idiotic, crazy, confused, and messed up ideas about what Christian's believe says more about us than it does about them. If people reject what we present, then they are at fault; if they are confused about what we present, however, then we are at fault. Dorothy Sayers still said it best: "Let the dogma of the church be dragged out from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it [by Christians], and set [upon] an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction.” Shame on us, for not keeping the burning truth bright and clear before the world; shame on us all. Until we change our thinking about what it means for a Christian to engage culture, about what it means to develop a Christian intellect, we will have to live with the mess we have made.

P.S. For Chesterton on the importance of the fundamentals, read this from his book Heretics.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Real Racial Reconciliation

Last Thursday evening, I was sitting in on a lecture about atheism when I nearly exploded out of my chair with excitement. My reasons for this is that, without warning, one of the speakers (a professor at my college, who I will dub Dr. P) demonstrated real racial reconciliation. In speaking about the origins of atheism, Dr. P launched into the logical consequences of atheism, specifically nihilism. While talking of nihilism, Dr. P (who is black) addressed the black people in the audience: "I do not want colored people to think that nihilism is a white problem. I have spoken before on the 'nihilism of the hood'." He then went to demonstrate how urban gang mentality is directly related to nihilistic thinking, and then brought his point home with an example of "nihilism of the hood" by referencing the Lester Street Murders. After he made his point, the whole audience, white and black alike, sat unified in our minds and hearts in regards to nihilism and atheism.
That is real racial reconciliation, and I here defiantly post it as testimony against all previous logic in regards to racial reconciliation. Real racial reconciliation is not the continual awareness of and making others aware of the racism that divides us. Real racial reconciliation is the continual awareness of and making others aware of the commonalities that unite us. Any racial reconciliation effort that does not base itself on that logic will lead its followers hopelessly into side eddies, or into further racism (for how reconciled can we get if we are constantly reminded that we still hate each other?).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Supposed details about celestial furniture..."

I was as giddy as a school boy after reading and mulling over this article by an atheist (we'll call him Mike), because it gave me the opportunity to give practical application to something I read by C.S. Lewis. How nice to know that all my readings of his works were not in vain!
Mike summed up his own point better than I could, so here it is: "As long as Christianity pushes the dogmatic bases for the truth, then any modern society is doomed to have its scientific advances hobbled to an anachronistic mythical religious past." His reasoning for this is that theology "is of itself a very flawed reasoning system drawn from a pre-scientific ancient world view." The example he gives to demonstrate this is that Christianity (to this day) still speak of the "heart" (among other things) as something Jesus must "come into" in order for someone to be saved. Mike theorizes (or just bluntly states) that Christians say this because there theology in this area (i.e., salvation) is based upon the flawed assumptions that ancient people (those uncivilized morons) had about the heart, i.e., that it was the emotional center of a man, not only the seat of physical life but also of spiritual life. Mike's conclusion is that because the theology is based on flawed assumptions, then the theology itself is flawed, an therefore erroneous.
I could berate Mike for his rather arrogant assumption that ancient people could not distinguish between the literal and the metaphorical, but I have a much more delicious attack: I will accuse him of committing his assumed error of the ancients, i.e., being unable to distinguish between the literal and metaphorical.
Mike has committed what I'll call the "imago-literal correlation" fallacy, a fallacy committed when (in an argument) one debater does not draw a distinction between the
essential truth(s) held by a fellow debater, and the imaginative expression(s) that that fellow debater uses to express those essential truths. This idea can be found in Lewis' essay "Horrid Red Things," which Mike's article reminded me of (for which I am eternally grateful to him). In the essay, Lewis tells of a little girl who had two beliefs about poison: (1) that it was dangerous, and (2) that it was full of horrid red things. The first belief is an essential truth about poison, while the second belief is an imaginative expression about poison. When the little girl's mother hears of these two beliefs, she will only correct the latter, not the former. When the little girl has been educated in these matters by her mother, nothing will have fundamentally changed about her beliefs except for the imaginative expression she uses: she no longer believes (as she once did) that poison contains horrid red things; she still believes (as she has always believed) that poison is dangerous. Though it is wise and often necessary of us to correct erroneous imagery, we must not think that erroneous imagery makes the essential truth erroneous as well. As Lewis put it: "If I, staying in [the girl's] house, had raised a glass of what looked like water to my lips, and the child had said, 'Don't drink that. Mummie says it's poisonous,' I should have been foolish to disregard the warning on the ground that 'This child has an archaic and mythological idea of poison as horrid red things.'" The invalidation of the imaginative expression does not mean the invalidation of the essential truth. To commit the imago-literal correlation fallacy is to believe that the invalidation of the expression consequently invalidates the truth behind that expression.
This, of course, is what atheist Mike has done: he has not distinguished between the expressions and the truths (i.e., "theology") behind them. That men of old had the erroneous belief that the physical heart was the center of physical and spiritual life, the center of the person behind the human, does not invalidate the belief that humans have (or are) souls. That men of old had the erroneous belief that the physical heart was "dirty" or a source of evil does not invalidate the belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with humanity. That Christians of old had the erroneous belief (though I doubt they did) that God "cleanses" your "heart" by Christ "coming in" to it does not invalidate the belief that God, through Christ, fixes whatever is fundamentally wrong with humanity. The erroneous beliefs not only do not invalidate the essential beliefs, but also do not even touch them, which is why Mike's argument is vacuous. For any Christian with a rudimentary understanding of theology, the only proper answer to Mike is a resounding, "Yeah. So what?"
Furthermore, Mike has not only fallen prey to the imago-literal correlation fallacy, he has also fallen prey to what I call "nitpickyism," i.e., attack the fundamentally superfluous and ignoring the fundamentally necessary. I suppose, in order to please Mike's scientific mind, we could change our word usage. Instead of saying that we are "fallen" (as though we tripped, or are clumsy), we could say that an aboriginal, supernatural infestation of malicious intent has corrupted our inner disposition. Instead of saying that we need to be "saved" (as though we were drowning, or in some sort of physical danger), we could say that only a supernatural intervention of benevolent intent from outside our existence can correct our corrupted dispositions. Instead of saying that being saved comes by "asking" (as though by invitation) Jesus to "come into" (as though in a spatial relation) our "hearts" (as though the physical organ), we could say a great Being of holiness is offering to us (because He met certain, special conditions) His own inner disposition in place of ours for free if we will only subject ourselves to this process. We could do that, if it would make Mike feel better about our theology.
Unfortunately, it won't make him feel better about our theology, because he has yet to even begin to attack our theology. He has only attacked the expressions, not the theology behind them. Therefore, our using different words will not please him because all we did was replace the old expressions with new ones. Instead of us saying "fallen," we now say "malicious infestation" (as though some disease had a will) has "corrupted" us (as though we were some sort of metal or chemical, or a control in an experiment). Instead of saying "saved," we now say "benevolent intervention" (as though we are druggies) from "outside" us (as though in a spatial relation) that "corrects" us (as though like a teacher). Instead of of saying "asking Jesus into your heart," we now say that a holy Being offers to us His own disposition in place of ours (as though we were at a swap meet or bazaar). No matter how many times we reword it all, Mike will never be satisfied, because he cannot distinguish between the expressions and the theology behind them, and thus will nitpick about any wording we use; for as Lewis said in his essay, "All language, except about objects of sense, is metaphorical through and through...We can make our language more polysyllabic and duller; we cannot make it more literal."

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Lengthy Comment to Master Jenkins on Preacher-Boy Syndrome

In regards to bad preaching:

Most preachers today (young and old) suffer from what I call "Preacher-boy Syndrome." You probably know what I mean: You have a friend you've known for years. His a cool guy. He loves life, loves hanging with friends, loves the Lord, and has a humor and vigor that lighten the room.
Then he gets called to be a preacher. He goes to Bible College for a year and comes back. What happens? Now he is all...strange. You feel a certain distance that wasn't there before; you could be looking him in the eye and he'd still seem oceans away. He seems almost brainwashed. Some would say "sanctified," "holy," "excited about God," and other such foolish misdirections. All you know is that anyone with two good eyes and plain common sense could see that there is something not right about him at all. He seems stressed, always pressured. He's always trying to smile a smile that seems plastered on. He's always spitting out "Amen!" and "Praise God!" to everything you say to him (even when what you said does not even merit such a response). You find him asking you weird questions in public, like "You think I should witness to those people over there?" Beforehand, he had never asked you that; he just did it. In short, you feel this terrible atmosphere of anxiety wrapped around some sort of artificial covering that was once your friend. You feel as though he's jumping through hoops with a gun put to his head, as though he's putting on a show to save his life. Sometime, many times, pastors never recover from this.
What happened to your friend is "Preacher-boy Syndrome," which is the Black Death of Bible Colleges these days. Aspiring young preachers, all bright faced and eager, get told (with different words than the ones I'm about to use) that a "preacher" is not who they are, not who God wants to be through them, but is a part that they perform. In order to perform it right, they must say the right things, do the right things, dress the right way, ask the right questions, hang with the right people, etc. In short, preaching, shepherding, stop being who they are (who God is through them) and start being some thing that they are to produce. In other words, it is no longer real; it is contrived. The problem you sense when your friend comes home from Bible College is that he feels utterly, abysmally, undeniably fake. Everything, from his dress to his sermons to his conversations to even his wife, all of it feels contrived, concocted, there because that's what's supposed to be there.
Preach the grandeur of God? Engage the depths of theology? Intellectually challenge your congregation? Spiritually prick their hearts with mighty missiles of God's truth? Good heavens, man! I'm still trying to organize all the charities and events and meetings and fund raisers and parties and choir outings and cantatas and three-point sermons! I'm too busy doing what I'm supposed to do! Doing what I have to do if I'm to be seen as a pastor! How can I be a pastor if I'm not doing all these things! Saying all these things! Wearing all these things!
Since when did following God's will for your life become about anything you do? When did it stop being about God using you and working through you? When did we feel it necessary to put ourselves in the way?

Why does preaching suck these days? Because we have no real pastors. We have performers in pastor costumes. Thus is Preacher-boy Syndrome; thus is another plight and blight upon the modern church.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Why God is Not a Sadistic, Egotistical Monster

Our good friend atheist Joe is back with a fresh attack. His latest polemic basically runs something like this: God is a sadistic, egotistical monster because: (1) He created a world that did not need to be created; (2) He created this world even though He knew it would fall into sin, causing temporal misery and then perpetual damnation for His creatures; and (3) He did all this for His own glory. In short, because God willfully caused and causes suffering for His own glory, He is a sadistic, egotistical monster.
There a few major flaws in his argument. In regards to the first point, i.e., why a reasonable (i.e., practical) God created that which did not need to be, I already presented my thoughts here. However, I would like to add a thing or two. Joe's claim that, for a "reasonable person" (which we assume God is), the only motivation for action is because of "a lack, either his own, or someone else's," is utterly false. Though as fallen humans we cannot know this fully yet, there is such a thing as a complete disinterestedness in a thing, i.e., the thing is done and/or enjoyed because of itself, and not what I or anyone else get or benefit from it. Some artists create because they need to express something; like the prophet Jeremiah, their bones burn unless they prophesy. However, other artists (even the one's whose bones sometimes burn) create merely for the enjoyment of creating, because creating is a good thing in and of itself (as well as a joy in and of itself). The artist was not thinking that he or the world needed more goodness (or joy), only that the thing itself was good to do regardless of its purpose or end. In the same manner, God created the world, not because He or anyone else needed a world, but simply because it, the creation and giving of life and existence, was a good (and enjoyable) thing to do. Read Genesis again: "God created...and God saw that it was good."
In regards to the second point, i.e., God created a world He knew people would suffer in and suffer later all for His glory, there is the erroneous (and blasphemous) assumption that suffering caused by Sin brings God glory. The ravagings of Sin may allow an occasion for God's glory to be presented (i.e., to make known His love, strength, joy, courage, wisdom, etc., to those who are ravaged), but the ravagings themselves are not to His glory. They are abominations, and grevious to Him. "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked," says the Lord (Ezekiel 33:11), and when He came in the flesh He railed against those who committed evil (Matthew 23), and wept at the presence of death (John 11:32-36). Suffering and evil neither gives God glory nor is it glorious to Him, period.
What glory, then, does God's get out of this whole mess of a world? Answer: the glory of redemption. Why did God create a world where He knew we would fall into Sin, as opposed to creating a perpetual paradise where the inhabitants (if there were any) had neither the opportunity nor even the ability to fall? The Christian answer has been that the experience of redemption is better than the experience of unfallenness. Is this the "fortunate fall" theory? Yes...sort of. The difference is that while most take the "fortunate fall" to mean that God foreknew, and therefore caused, the Fall, the truth is that God foreknew, and therefore allowed, the Fall. That difference is key: causation necessitates commendation, but allowance does not. God did not find the Fall agreeable (for lack of a better term), but He did see a way to turn its evil into good (which is what He does: Genesis 50:20 & Romans 8:28).
How do we know that
the experience of redemption is better than the experience of unfallenness? Consider this: what are angels? According to the Christian tradition, angels are unfallen beings (and therefore require no redemption) and are continually in God's visible presence (and therefore require no faith). They live the life that atheist clamor for: a life where there is no suffering and no questions, no mysteries or doubts. It is indeed idyllic. Now, consider I Peter 1:12. Peter notes how the coming of the gospel to humanity is a matter that "the angels desire to look into." Imagine that! The idyllic angels, who have tasted neither sin nor doubt, look at our world of the Fall and Redemption and actually desire to know it! Is their idyllic life of unfallenness not good enough? Apparently not. In finding ourselves in the story of redemption, we find ourselves in that which the unfallen angels do not know about and yet desire to know. Apparently, it is better to be redeemed than unfallen. God allowed the Fall so that we could taste that which angels have never known.
One last thing. Atheist Joe uses a quote from
Dostoyevsky’s book The Brother's Karamazov, where Ivan Karamazov ask the question of whether or not one would build an "edifice of destiny so that men would finally be happy and would find peace and tranquility" if it was conditioned that they must torture an innocent. Joe attempts to compare this to God creating our world while He foreknew the Fall, and his comparison is completely ridiculous. First of all, the world (or the universe for that matter) was never predicated as that which would bring men happiness, peace, and tranquility, and God never created Creation because it would do that. As stated earlier, He created it simply because it was good, and it was good to create it. Second of all, God's creating Creation was not conditioned on the Fall. The Fall does not cause Creation, nor did Creation cause the Fall. Thirdly, finally, and most importantly, given that we allow the question for a moment, the answer to the question of whether or not God would let an innocent suffer in order to bring about paradise is a most resounding, "Yes, He would." The difference (a difference that causes Christians to fall on their knees and worships Him) is that He was the innocent that suffered (on the cross) in order to bring about the paradise that is redemption. As Christ, God was (so to speak) that "little girl who beat her chest so desperately in the outhouse," the one who's "unavenged tears" caused the edifice of redemption to rise and tower above all humanity. For this, we praise and thank Him forevermore.