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.