Thursday, December 17, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This is not circular reasoning. Circular reasoning requires two objects that alternatively serve as the necessary proof for the other ("I know 'X' because of 'Y'; I know 'Y' because of 'X'"). The statement "the Bible is God's word because it says so" cannot be circular because it has only one object, i.e., the Bible. It has nothing to "circulate" to. It stays with itself. It is its own referent; it does not refer to something that alternatively refers back to it for validity.
In addition, calling such a statement "circular reasoning" is fallacious because it reveals a lack of understanding about the nature of the Bible. The Bible is not a code book of maxims and creeds. It is a verbalized revelation from another person; in short, it is a message. A message implies de facto a sender, and it is certainly not uncommon (nor implicit of circulation) for a sender to identify themselves in their message (we would find it odd if they did not). Thus, the real question is not, "How do we know that it is God's word?" The real question is, "Why should we not accept it as God's word?" After all, the sender identifies themselves, just like my friends identify themselves when they send me a letter. Why then should I accept their self-identification but not God's?
Monday, November 23, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
In regards to our "protection" from spiritual evil, we are protected from spiritual evil by the blood of Christ, but that protection does not suddenly sever us from the spiritual world. We can still be witnesses to demonic activity (Jesus and His disciples certainly were), though through Christ we (1) are shielded from it and (2) have authority over it.
Your mentioning of "the judgment" after death (as King Jimmy calls it) was going to be my "further thoughts" about ghosts, viz., the nature of the afterlife. How you view the afterlife directly affects your view of ghosts; and as you pointed out, orthodox Christianity believes that once death occurs, the soul does not linger here. It goes on to "meet its Maker".
Of course, that just makes the ghost question more complicated. If they are not lingering souls nor demonic activity, then what are they?
I propose some pseudo-heterodox speculation on the subject. It should be fun, if for no other reason then it would provide an excellent plot line for some story in the future. 8^D
I shall begin, then you can respond to mine and then offer a pseudo-heterodoxical speculation of your own.
PSEUDO-HETERODOX SPECULATION #1:
There is a concept within the Old Testament (and one that lingers in the New) that death is actually just "sleep," i.e., that the soul remains dormant in the body until God calls it to judgment. This could be what is behind those phrases in Pauline epistles where he talks about those who "sleep in Jesus," and how when Christ returns "the dead in Christ shall rise," seeming to suggest that their souls have not yet left their bodies (I Thess. 4:14, 16; actually, the entire passage of I Thess. 4:13-18 has several mentions of "those who sleep").
If we take it that in death the soul merely "sleeps" until it is called to judgment, then we can then perhaps explain why some people say a place is haunted because some poor soul "cannot find rest". The default idea behind hauntings is that something terrible and/or unjust occurred to someone and now they can have no rest until it is rectified. Perhaps this can be connected to the whole "soul-sleep" theory, viz., at death, a soul normally sleeps until the call to judgment, but in instances of wrong (an upsurge of horrendous spiritual evil) the soul is incapable of resting until justice is met, whether in this life (by some avenger) or the next (at the throne of God).
The Fall could definitely explain how this is possible: the introduction of Sin into the world has disrupted the whole of Creation (including the spiritual side), causing all that ought to happen to be thwarted. If "soul-sleep" is the proper and natural result of death (i.e., what ought to be), then it is completely possible that Sin can (or has) disrupt it as well.
Thus, perhaps the old story (i.e., they cannot find rest) is actually the true story: Ghosts are souls that cannot sleep because of the terrible evil that happened to them, and thus are left to linger until justice is served somehow.
Thus is my first speculation. I await your response.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
My thoughts on ghosts are interesting precisely because I am unsure about them.
Having been raised in a fundamentalist background, I was taught (and thus believed by default) to treat all paranormal activity as purely demonic, a mere method of deception to turn people from God and towards Satan.
Lately I am unsure, however, and that for two reasons.
If I've read C.S. Lewis correctly, one of the devil's favorite tactics is secrecy, not only in regards to himself but in regards to the spiritual world as a whole. He would much rather you be ignorant of a spiritual world (and subsequently spiritual beings) because such knowledge can lead to all sorts of nasty questions about the afterlife, your soul (its existence and nature), and even God and Satan. The presence of ghosts seems detrimental to such ends. If there are ghosts, then two things must necessarily be true: (1) we have a soul, and (2) that soul will live beyond the life of the body. Such acknowledgments are dangerous for the purposes of the demonic, for although they can lead one astray, they can also lead one straight into the arms of religion, specifically God's religion. So, in sum, my first reason is that the presence of ghosts seems detrimental to Satan's purposes since they give acknowledgment to the spiritual side of things and thus can lead people to start taking spiritual questions seriously.
My other reason for being unsure about a "purely demonic" understanding of the paranormal is that if it is an operation of Satan, then it is an incredibly slip-shod operation. Watch any of those "ghost shows" and you'll see what I mean: the activities of the demons (if they are demons) seem highly confused and unorganized, spending most of their time slowly opening doors, dropping things, making it suddenly cold, or muttering useless comments that vaguely identify themselves with whoever or whomever last occupied their haunting grounds. Honestly now: If I was a malevolent spiritual entity bent on deceiving humanity through paranormal activity, why would I waste my time and energy having my minions doing such asinine activities as making noises and muttering nonsensicals? Would it not make more sense to have them do something more obviously "pro-Satanic," like saying "Satan is awesome" or writing it on a wall somewhere in bright burning letters? In sum, I guess that my second reason is that I like to give my opponent (i.e., Satan) the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is indeed colossally foul but also colossally brilliant, and that his true activities are far more dreadful and effective.
I have further thoughts about ghosts, my dear Phoenix, but I shall break for now so neither you nor I grow weary with my words. Send me your thoughts and whether or not you want me to continue or if I should just shut up and go read a book or something.
I believe in angels and demons, i.e., I believe that the spiritual side of things contains spiritual beings, with one sect being wholly bent towards evil and thus wholly bent towards causing destruction and damnation either directly or indirectly, and the other sect being wholly bent towards good and thus wholly bent towards causing restoration and redemption either directly or indirectly. I believe them to be personal intelligences and not impersonal forces (or even impersonal intelligences, i.e., they are not mere machines).
I believe that human beings (since we are intimately connected with their world as much as they are to ours), in aligning themselves with either the good or the evil, can be aided by one and consequently assaulted by the other, since they are at war with each other because their very essences and purposes are antithetical (destruction vs. restoration, etc.).
Thus (in regards to this warfare), I believe in "magic," but not in the naive since of mere "power". I see magic as a form of communion, communion with one or the other of those "personal intelligences," whether they be good or evil. The "magic" of the good consist of prayer, the reading and quoting of scripture, worship, and various subjective experiences where we come in contact with and thereby commune with the good (who I obviously recognize as God). The "magic" of the evil consist of different things, whether they be the more spectacular stunts common to (or at least claimed by) plain witchcraft in all its forms, or the more subtle nature of a mere "influence," so to speak (e.g., Hitler's ability to mesmerize audiences; I am convinced that it was demonic magic). In either case, "magic" is the natural result of communion with the personalities of the spiritual world (whether they be good or evil), and I believe that this "magic" (as I have defined it) is the weaponry of this warfare. As humans (belonging to the spiritual just as much as the physical), we are capable of utilizing both (although, to be orthodox about it, we are incapable of using [or fully using] the good until salvation by grace).
By the way, as an addendum to my two points in the previous post, I also believe that the spiritual good is more powerful than the spiritual evil, and thus the evil can never ultimately win. My reasons for that are another issue, however. Let's move on to a final issue: ghosts.
Allow me to be flatly obvious and then become perhaps more interesting.
As a Christian, I believe fully in a spiritual world.
Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's get to the specifics.
I believe that the relationship between the physical and the spiritual is hierarchical, i.e., they stand in relation to each other as the "lesser" and the "greater," with the physical being the lesser and the spiritual the greater. This is not a kind of Gnosticism (i.e., I do not think that the physical is bad). I simply hold that the spiritual side of things is the important side of things if for no other reason than that is were all the "action" is. To put it in a simpler way: though the physical obviously has its consequences, I believe that the spiritual side of things is of greater consequence to our lives than the physical (e.g., "the body they may kill, / God's truth abideth still")
I believe that the relationship between the physical and the spiritual is intimate, i.e., they are completely connected. The physical is not "right here" while the spiritual is "over there" or "out there," nor is the spiritual "compartmentalized" apart from the physical. They are both bonded together. We live in a completely spiritual world just as much as a completely physical one, and actions in one directly influence the other. A somewhat simple example would be the effects of food upon the soul: if it's good and warm and satisfying, it creates a sense of joy and peace and refreshment.
Alright: having established those two points, lets move on to "spiritual warfare" as well as "demons and ghosts and stuff."
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
From Charles Williams' book War in Heaven:
Mornington suspected his Christianity of being the inevitable result of having moved for some time as a youth of eighteen in circles which were, in a rather detached and superior way, opposed to it; but it was a religion which enabled him to despise himself and everyone else without despising the universe, thus allowing him at once in argument or conversation the advantages of the pessimist and the optimist.
Williams here states (in his unique style) the way that Christian doctrine(s) (viz., the fallenness of man and the holiness of God) give to the Christian the best parts of other philosophies while avoiding their errors. Within the Christian worldview, one finds a healthy cynicism and a healthy idealism perfectly wedded.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
From Madeleine L'Engle's book Walking on Water:
Sin, that unpopular word again. The worse things get, the more we try to rationalize and alibi. When we do wrong we try to fool ourselves (and others) that it is because our actions and reactions have been coded into our genetic pattern at the moment of conception. Or our mothers didn't understand us. Or they understood us too well. Or it is the fault of society. Certainly it is never our fault, and therefore we have not sinned.
[By] such dirty devices, any shred of free will left in the human being is taken away. If I do wrong, I may do it unwittingly, thinking I am doing something for the best; but if it turns out to be wrong, I have done it, and I must bear the responsibility. It is not somebody else's or something else's fault. If it is, [then] I am less than human.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
In summary, beauty (or "excellency") is a type of proportion, regularity, equality, and/or symmetry between individual elements of reality, while ugliness is the opposite of such (disproportion, irregularity, etc.). In other words, beauty is order and structure (which Edwards called "being"), while ugliness is disorder or chaos (which I'm calling "nothing"). In addition, the more an object increases in these qualities, the more pleasure it produces to the subject; conversely, the more it decreases in these qualities, the more pain it produces. Still with me? Good, let's move on then.
The reason pleasure and pain is produced is because the more and object increases in proportion, etc., the closer it gets to absolute order (which Edwards called "Being"), which is the highest and most excellent good; likewise, the more it decreases, the farther it gets from absolute order and the closer it gets to absolute disorder or chaos (which I'm calling "Nothing"), which is the lowest and most debased evil. In short, the imitation of the Good produces pleasure and the imitation of the Bad produces pain. Still got it? Great, let's keep going.
Now here is where the argument begins. Edwards calls this increase of proportion, etc., the "consent of being," i.e., beauty is consensual. This is because proportion, etc., necessarily requires two or more parties: a circle is "symmetrical" only after you divide it into two or more parts and compare the parts to each other. As Edwards put it, an aboslute whole (or a "singular") can only be beautiful/excellent by a "consent of its parts," i.e., because its oneness contains a "plurality." Thus, a "singular" without a plurality necessarily cannot be beautiful because beauty is contingent upon proportion, etc., which is contingent upon consent, which implies plurality. Therefore, beauty necessarily implies plurality. As Edwards put it, a singular "that is absolutely without any plurality cannot be excellency, for there can be no such thing as consent or agreement."
Perhaps you are beginning to see where the argument is going. If we admit that God is the Creator of all things, He is therefore necessarily the source of all things (i.e., all things come from Him). That means that whatever can be found in reality finds its absolute realization in Him. For example (and in regards to the argument), if we find beauty (proportion, etc.) in reality, then that necessarily means that beauty is in God as well (albeit, in an absolute sense, i.e., Beauty, or to use Edwards' term, "Being"). However, if beauty necessarily implies plurality, then that means that in order for God to be the source of beauty, He too must be a plurality; or, to phrase it another way, for God to be the source of beauty, His oneness must necessarily contain a plurality. Question: What do we call it when God's oneness contains a plurality?
A: The Trinity. I rest my case.
Caveat Emptor: This post is about how the nature of beauty could possibly give us reason to believe in the Trinity. This post does not presume to explain how this oneness/plurality dynamic works in detail within the Godhead. Thus, I don't need any of you nit-pickers out there getting hung up on my use of words like "divide," divided," and "parts." I am not making a comment on how the thing works; I'm simply stating what may be a reason to believe that the thing is real.
Related to this post.
Rabid post-modern emergent Christianity and rabid militant atheism have this in common: both are prideful rebellion against God. The former's pride exalts man's experiential subjectivity above God, while the latter's exalts man's fallen and limited intellect. The former interprets God through their individualistic experiences, while the latter interprets through strictly naturalistic scientism. Neither one allows God to interpret Himself by His own revelations (viz., the Bible). Thus, they exalt themselves into God's position, which is the very essence of pride itself.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
-from "The Creed of Saint Athanasius," from The Book of Common Prayer
"There is in God (some say) / a deep but dazzling darkness...." -Henry Vaughan, from The Night
"I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you / which shall be the darkness of God." -T.S. Eliot, from East Corker
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Cooperation as redemption is a lie because cooperation is not possible. History is littered with examples of where humanity, in a glorious attempt to coalesce and rise out of the ashes, is immediately consumed by some former or new ill unperceived and yet somehow of our own making. Perhaps history is no more than collective humanity's record of when and where it slits its own throat.
Perhaps the image of the ghost is apropos for humanity: unreality trapped in ceaseless deathlessness. Like all ghosts, we are bound by some damnable link to the region of our demise where we walk as disembodied shades in the night; and no matter how many times we band together in humanistic coalitions, we remain in the land of the dead.
Yet the image of the phoenix is apropos as well, for it is a startling quintessence of human nature: hope that never dies, the indomitable spirit. Beneath (and perhaps in the midst of) our troubled layers, there still burns a last vestige of desire, a yet unyielding ember that dreams of restoration, eucatastrophe, redemption, victory. When the breath of God blows on that dying coal, what a fire it kindles!
It is indeed victory that God promises those who follow Him; not meaningless words and phrases, but victory, final and sweet. Victory over the world, victory over death, victory over guilt, victory over the monsters, victory over all the things that have haunted mankind out of the depths of our dark antiquity. That is perhaps the greatest goodness that the gospel produces.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I made that prediction at the end of ’07. Crichton officially folded at the beginning of ’09. I suppose a little over a year is “within” ten years.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I seem to recall that Crichton didn’t have financial problems. Yes, we were a small college. Yes, we sometimes felt like we were running on a shoestring budget at times; but ultimately the college soldiered on with fresh tuition and interested donors. Why? My fervent claim is because we knew who we were and what we were about, and that identity gave us strength.
What exactly were we? Well, we were not an urban missions hub. We were not an open door, pandering, lackluster academic institution. We were not a ‘jonnie-come-lately” to bigger, badder Christian universities. We were not a collection of “recovering racists.” We were a Christian Liberal Arts college, dedicated to academic excellence and strong spiritual development. We were dedicated to the bizarre and absurd proposition that our students could change the world, not through racial reconciliation, not through education to all regardless of their academic credentials (e.g., can they even write?), not through urban development, not through “reaching upward,” but through critical thinking and spiritual growth. That, of course, is the hidden truth behind Crichton’s old motto (does anybody even remember it?): “Think Critically, Grow Spiritual, Change the World.”
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
It has become abundantly clear in the second half of the twentieth century that Western Man has decided to abolish himself. Having wearied of the struggle to be himself, he has created his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, his own vulnerability out of his own strength; himself blowing the trumpet that brings the walls of his own city tumbling down, and, in a process of auto-genocide, convincing himself that he is too numerous, and labouring accordingly with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer in order to be an easier prey for his enemies; until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keels over a weary, battered old brontosaurus and becomes extinct.