Thursday, April 28, 2005

Wiccans and Christians: Some Mutual Challenges

This article is a MUST read: Wiccans and Christians: Some Mutual Challenges. The author, Phillip S. Johnson, shows how Christian can dialogue with Wiccans in a way that is very constructive and non-condemning. This is important, as most Wiccans come out of Christian households...


Stanley Kurtz on Christians and the Left

Excellent article by Stanley Kurtz about the left's escalation of the cultural wars: the current tactic is to equate conservative Christians with German Nazi's. And no, I'm not exagerating. Here is an excerpt from the article:
"Harper's Magazine's May cover stories about "The Christian Right's War On America," frightened me, although not the way Harper's meant them to. I fear these stories could mark the beginning of a systematic campaign of hatred directed at traditional Christians. Whether this is what Harper's intends, I cannot say. But regardless of the intention, the effect seems clear."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Book Review: If Grace Is True




IF GRACE IS TRUE
Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland


As I read the book If Grace Is True, a well-known old bromide kept coming to mind: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” This book may be the ultimate and most ironic example of the truth of that saying.

This book is based on a simple premise: if grace (God’s unmerited favor) is true, then literally everyone will go to heaven, no matter their religion or behavior.

Those who are familiar with orthodox Christian doctrine will immediately realize there is a problem with this premise: there is nothing in all of Christianity that supports it. As a matter of fact, this very doctrine, which the authors correctly point out originated with Origen, was considered heresy by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553. For the past 1,500 years, their has been nearly unanimous agreement amongst Christian theologians that universalism is false.

Yet despite its condemnation, the doctrine of universal salvation, also known by the technical term apocatastasis, has popped up from time to time, and in modern times has found it’s most fertile soil in the United States and Britain. It is no surprise then that both Gulley and Mulholland are Americans.

To fully understand why Gulley and Mulholland champion a doctrine that has no basis in orthodox Christian theology, you must first understand all their underlying premises, which they willingly supply to the reader. Here then, is the foundation upon which they build their case:

1. Universalism is true because God “whispered in my ear.” i.e. special revelation.

2. Personal experience is the ultimate barometer of truth, especially when concerning things of God. However, this is not Cartesian philosophy that’s being advocated, but more like the statement “anything outside my realm of personal experience is false.”

2. The Bible is neither inerrant nor authoritative, except for those verses and passages that can be ripped out of their context to support universalism.

3. Jesus is not God, nor is there a Trinity. God is just God; one person.

4. The doctrine of atonement is false. There is no need of atonement from sin.

5. God’s love and mercy will not allow him to send someone to eternal punishment. It is not in his character to ever harm anyone, except for their ultimate benefit.

Given these premises then of course universalism is true, for they immediately nullify any reasonable rebuttal. Most of the book is a further explanation and defense of these premises, with supporting scriptures, quotes, and experiences provided.

However, the orthodox Christian will immediately realize that all these premises are heresy. When you remove the authority of the Word of God, deny the Trinity, and deny the need for atonement, then you are no longer talking about Christianity. Gulley and Mulholland insist that there is Jesus, a Bible, and salvation, but these are mere forms, their substance has been carefully and systematically removed or redefined.

The logical errors the authors make, and the contradictions that are abundant throughout this book make it a far more useful tool for the denial of universalism than it’s proof! For example, if every person is saved, then it is no longer God’s grace that is in operation; grace is completely nullified. Heaven no longer needs God’s grace for admittance, since it is now an entitlement, an inaliable right. Whether we get there through grace, contempt, or guilt is ultimately meaningless.

If the Bible is neither authorative nor inerrant, then it’s frivolous and inaccurate. In other words, you can’t go and cherry pick your favorite verses from an unauthoritative document then imply that they are authoritative! Yet that’s exactly what Gulley and Mulholland attempt with their examples of scriptures that allegedly support their position! This is what is normally known as hypocrisy.

But the most grievous error of all is how universalism ultimately nullifies itself. For instance, let’s assume that every Christian church and denomination; Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, all decide that universalism is the real deal, and proclaim universal salvation to all people, whether or not they are Christian, whether or not they behave in accordance with Christian tradition. What would be the net result of such a thing?

Well, no one in his right mind would ever walk through a church door, for if there is no need of the church for salvation, then it is completely irrelevant. And since you are saved regardless of behavior or ethics, there is certainly no need to teach Christian morality and ethics anymore. Jesus, the Bible, grace, love, and all everything else becomes ultimately irrelevant, since we are all going to be in heaven anyway, whether or not we have even heard of such a place.

And since there is no need to adhere to any code of conduct to get to heaven, then there is no need to act in the fashion of a Mother Teresa. The reward for being the greatest saint is the same for the most evil sinner: eternal life and happiness. So why bother with self-denial and self-sacrifice? Goodness is no more ultimately rewarded than blatant evil and selfishness.

It is easy to see where I’m going with this: if universal salvation were fully believed and accepted, it would be the precursor to the greatest hell on earth the world has ever known! Those of you who think I exaggerate, take a look at the various godless utopian ideals that have been tried over the centuries, only to fall apart under the weight of their own corruptness.

The law of non-contradiction states that a proposition cannot be true that is it’s own nullification. Yet universalism is exactly that: a nullification of itself, or at least of the underlying forms that are used to support it.

THEIR MOTIVE FOR WRITING

Obviously Gulley & Mulholland’s argument is not a logical nor theological one, as it fails miserably to convince on those levels. So one is left wondering what their prime motivation is for embracing a doctrine--universal salvation--that has been deemed heresy for more than 1,500 years? There seems to be two motives: the rigidity and gracelessness of the modern evangelical/fundamentalist church and a slight misunderstanding as to what God wants to do in comparison to what he will do.

Let me state that I believe God does want every person to be saved; He certainly takes no delight what-so-ever in the condemnation and punishment of the wicked, as is demonstrated very well in the story of Jonah. However, it’s one thing to believe in what God wants to happen as opposed to what will happen. Gulley and Mulholland, not quite understanding the kindness and the severity of God, have decided that He will save everyone no-matter-what.

So why embrace a position that has no scriptural or theological support? The authors seem to think fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity places far too many restrictions on salvation. In order to compensate for the perceived stinginess of the evangelical community, Gulley and Mulholland have fallen off the other side of the narrow road, and have proclaimed that God will, absolutely, save everyone. In many places throughout their book, the authors point out many, many places where the evangelical community has taken far too narrow a view of God, the Bible, and Christianity; and as a result they have created a Christian “clique” that is more interested in removing oneself from the world rather than saving it. In a self-revealing passage, the authors state:
So many people enter churches persuaded God is lurking in ambush. They come expecting fire and brimstone, and we’ve been all too willing to heap it on. We’ve slandered God’s character too long. I regret the times I manipulated and coerced other with sermons designed to shame and frighten rather than celebrate the love of God. I failed to appreciate the depth of God’s love. (pg. 68)
Certainly churches exists like those the authors were apart of. However, this type of severity is not true of all churches, not even all evangelical churches. I have found several conservative churches that spend far more time preaching on the love and mercy of God then they do on eternal condemnation and the fires of hell, if they preach on those subjects at all! So it is obvious that Gulley and Mulholland are painting a select picture of fundamentalist Christianity using a very broad brush.

The authors are correct to state that God’s love and grace must be the primary teaching of the Christian church; with that I have no problem. But God’s unconditional love doesn’t mean that we are all going to escape the fires of hell! It is explicit throughout scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, that we must take responsibility for our own actions, and God will reward or punish those actions in a fair and balanced way. Yet God often does not punish us nearly as severely as we deserve! But still a constant theme of punishment unto death exists throughout the Bible, and especially in the parables and teachings of Jesus. Also there are times where Jesus explicitly states that punishment is eternal; but it is also made very clear that the ultimate decision concerning one’s eternal destination is made by ourselves, not God! Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has opened the door of eternal salvation, and there are constant reminders telling us that we must walk through that door.

While I do not agree with Gulley and Mulholland’s solution to the problem of gracelessnes in some churches, I do agree with their criticisms. It is my belief that every church should extend as much love and grace as possible, and then go beyond even that! Those churches more interested in your sins than your salvation only create pride and triumphalism, along with false expectations no one can live up to.

God’s unconditional love for us does not automatically translate into our unconditional salvation. Definite conditions are placed on our salvation in both the Old and New Testaments, and those who are wise will heed these conditions. They are not difficult nor are they unreasonable, but they are conditions none-the-less. The first condition is to love God as He loves you, and this is demonstrated by us through obedience to His commandments. The second is to love everyone just as you are loved, and to show them the grace and forgiveness that God has shown you. And that’s about it. The rest of the Bible deals with particular applications of these conditions, and the punishment that awaits those who do not follow them.

But I do not blame Gulley and Mulholland for being blind to conditional salvation, as most of the evangelical church is blind to it as well! There is a subtext of “once saved, always saved” that permeates the evangelical community, especially those who are of the reformed theological tradition. Yet the Bible does not guarantee anyone’s salvation, unless the above conditions are met and lived out on a daily basis. Evangelicals often think people are “saved” if they say a prayer of repentance and are dunked in water; but this is not the biblical standard as salvation is only promised to those who walk as Jesus did. In other words, people need to LIVE the Christian life, not just pledge allegiance to it.

I really wish universal salvation were true, and most Christian I know would have no problem with that if it were Biblical. But if universal salvation is true, there could be no individual accountability for evil, and so a grave injustice would be done on a cosmic scale. The Bible often warns us that it is evil to reward the guilty and to punish those who are innocent; I don’t anticipate God is willing to ignore a standard that He expects us to live by.

For a very scholarly and in depth critique of universalism and similar systems, I highly recommend the book Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment published by Zondervan.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

The Theology of Wishful Thinking (Crosswalk.com)
A Distorted Predestination (Christianity Today)

Ron's Theory of Knowledge

There are only two kinds of "knowledge" for me personally:

1. Realized knowledge | the information which I've gained throughout all the experiences of my life, through whatever means: sensory, intuition, etc.

2. Potential knowledge | all that I have yet to experience.

Estimated Ratio of potential to realized knowledge in my life: 99.999999 : 0.000001

Notice that I don't give any valuations at all for either group. That's because I automatically consider almost all information/experience to be basically true, good & beautiful. (The exception would be when the source is a liberal…but then we're talking knowledge here…) Of course not all information/experience is ultimately true, good and beautiful.

So how do I know what in this great mess of information/experiences needs to be valued, and what needs to be discarded? Well, to be quite honest, it really depends upon how I feel about the information/experience.

At this point let me state that for me there is a significant difference between emotions and feelings. I would define emotions as they would be commonly understood, the agitations of our being that often have physical manifestations like crying, laughing, and so on. But feelings I define more like awareness or consciousness; there is a definite link to emotions, but from my perspective, emotions proceed forth out of feelings, not vice versa.

I cannot help but notice that almost all information/experiences have an impact on my feelings. The impact is either positive (pleasurable), neutral, or negative (painful).

Information/experiences that I value are those that bring forth pleasure of some sort. Information/experiences that I would rather forget have brought forth feelings of pain or suffering. And then there's a whole lot of stuff that is somewhere in between, neither all that painful nor pleasurable.

Of course, this is all entirely subjective. I can communicate my feelings to someone else, but I certainly can't force someone to feel the way I do. Nor can I prove my feelings using math, logic, or anything else. They just are. Whether or not anyone else perceives my particular feelings is ultimately meaningless; for I can certainly perceive my own feelings, and to a certain extent even measure their intensity. But don't ask me to explain it to your understanding or prove it to you, it's simply not possible. At best I can communicate my feelings, often imperfectly, and hope that the receptor has the ability to properly interpret what it is I'm communicating. (Amazingly enough, this isn't so hard as it seems, assuming the receptor also has feelings!)

So I can communicate my information/experiences to someone else, perhaps even "prove" them to a certain extent, but so what? Some people will believe anything with no proofs what-so-ever, other won't believe anything no matter how many "proofs" you give them. It's not that people are irrational, it's just that if someone feels good about your explanation, they'll buy it. If they don't feel good about it, then they aren't going to be convinced no matter what. We are not just a bunch of ultra-rational computers testing each and every bit of data that comes are way: our feelings often seem to be the only real test thjat we actually use.

Another problem is that my feelings may or may not lead me to ultimate truth. Yet, I don't really believe that I'm going to find ultimate truth in this life anyway. I can easily settle for approximate truth for a vast majority of my purposes (apologies to Kierkegaard). I don't need to know the biology of the coffee plant or the inner workings of the coffee industry to enjoy my cup of java in the morning.

RATIONAL THOUGHT

As for rational thought, I find it to be most useful as a means of categorizing all my various information/experiences. My rational thought process (what little there is of it) simply makes some quick little logical determinations about the knowledge/experience, then stores them away for later processing. Most of this happens in the background, unconsciously. Again, for a vast majority of my purposes, this background processing is all that is needed.

My rational mind also serves to test & process particular types of information/experience depending upon my feeling that further analysis is necessary. The rational mind then works the problem until it feels right. Then the problem & solution gets placed back in their little pigeon-hole somewhere in my memory, often only to be eventually forgotten--erased from memory. So the very core of my being is nothing more than a lump of feelings, or awareness. All the rational-minded stuff is actually in service to my feelings, not vice-versa. And I have a feeling that this is true for more people than just me, no matter how much they trumpet their superior rationality, as if they were the very incarnation of Mr. Spock.

And speaking of Star Trek analogies, I find my rational thought process is often most fully engaged when having to deal with other people, whether it is through personal contact, books, lectures, or whatever. Then I used my rational processes like the shields on the starship Enterprise: they guard my feelings by filtering all the garbage that often comes forth from human beings, and categorizing it appropriately a priori, before it gets to the core feeling level. The information/experiences deemed worthy is then passed on to my feeling mechanism (believe it or not, I have read such a thing does actually exist in the brain!) And then it's my feelings which ultimately decide what to do with the information/experience. Of course, there are times when I don't want my rational mind to get involved with my experiences at all, because the experiences might be bringing me quite a bit of pleasure! At that point, logical analysis only gets in the way.

Come to think of it, a huge chunk of my daily living needs little to no rational analysis. Normally it only comes into play when another of my fellow human being says they've found THE TRUTH, and that's when the real fun begins...

THE BIG QUANDRY

Now here is the biggest problem I face: the information/experience that I find the most valuable of all, that which I'm willing to die for, is almost entirely subjective. I cannot "prove" it to someone else. Of course I've proven the value of this information to myself, and have no doubts about it what-so-ever. I can even say I'm completely certain that it's true, good, wonderful, etc. Yet, because it is somewhat beyond the scope of the five senses to study and observe, regular, physical proofs are impossible.

It's like going to Florida, and then explaining to your friend in North Dakota what Florida is like. You can tell him everything about it in great detail, but you cannot really "prove" there is a Florida until your friend has experienced the place for himself.

That brings up the interesting problem of just how much of our "knowledge" is really just the belief in other's testimonies. How can we really "know" something until we ourselves have experienced it? Just how much of that which we hold dear is just what "feels" right? I think many people would be very embarrassed at how much of their "knowledge" is based on nothing more than good feelings, or even bad feelings!

Well, since there are no right or wrong answers, there you have it! And of course you can neither prove or disprove anything I've just posted, since it's all just my subjective musings anyway…

Monday, April 04, 2005

If A Tree Falls in the Forest....

IF A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST

The indivisible link between existence and consciousness.

MAIN ARGUMENT:

An old rhetorical question goes: "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Well, the correct answer is "no." Since "sound" is only possible given the following conditions:

1.) That there is a listener who has the ability to hear…his ears function normally.

2.) The listener knows what the definition of "sound" is, and can correctly identify a "sound" when he hears one.

If there is no "listener" then there is no sound. Sound is only given substance by a listener who can perceive sound.

Now, let's go one step further: can something exist (object) if no one exists (subject) who is aware of it's existence?

In order to answer that question, we must understand there is a strong relationship between consciousness and existence, they cannot be easily separated, if at all.

Our human sensory perception and our instrumentality is very, very limited; it is simply impossible for a single person to know of everything that exists. Nor is it possible for mankind, collectively, to know of everything that exists, and I'm speaking of just those things that are possible to detect given our limitations.

Nor can we say that we are the only conscious beings in this universe with absolute certainty, for we are simply incapable of perfect knowledge of this universe. Sadly, we are stuck, no matter how far we advance in our instrumentality, with limitations that we simply do not have the means to overcome.

But there is something we can be sure of: if we perceive that a being exists, it exists, even if that being is ourselves. Hence Descartes' axiom: "I think, there for I am." Or more accurately stated: I am conscious that I exist; I know what it means to exist (rationality); therefore I exist.

The only way we can know, for sure, that something exists is through our sense perceptions. But we already know that there are beings who's existence is not dependent upon our ability to perceive them. Most of us would not argue with the statement that "there are lions in Africa." Yet how many people reading this text are in Africa, in place where they are able to look up and see lions? You believe there are lions in Africa because perhaps you were in Africa once, and you saw lions when you were there. Or maybe you saw a television show or movie with lions, and were told that the location was somewhere in Africa. Or perhaps you saw lions at the local zoo, and the sign on the display stated that they came from Africa…

We, as human beings, rely very, very much on the testimony of others, and not on our own direct sensory perceptions. For some odd reason, we think this good enough, and it often is.

Now, back to the material world….

Imagine a non-conscious being that is completely impossible to perceive with our senses, could such a being exist? The answer is no. A non-conscious being's existence is very much dependent on it's ability to be perceived by a conscious, rational being. Why so? Because "existence" is only a concept in the mind of a conscious, rational being, and in order for existence to have any meaning what-so-ever, it is completely dependent upon the rational ability of a conscious being to think it and perceive it. Existence does not exist apart from consciousness.

Now imagine a non-conscious being that exists (object) without any conscious, rational being existing to perceive it (subject); can such a being exist? The answer is no. If there is no conscious rational being to perceive a non-conscious being, then it is not possible for that being to exist, it is a logical contradiction. The only way we can imagine a non-conscious being existing without ever being perceived by a conscious being is by our own rational consciousness. And if we are using our rational consciousness to perceive a non-conscious being, then that being is being perceived, if only in our mind's eye.

Existence only has meaning if there is a conscious, rational being who understands what "existence" means and can identify "existence" when he sees it. Surprisingly, without a rational, conscious being to perceive existence, then there is no such concept as existence! A statement like "imagine a universe where there are no conscious beings to perceive it's existence" is a logical contradiction. The only way such a universe can exist is if there is a rational, conscious being that can perceive it--if only through thinking--that such a thing exists!

This seems counter-intuitive, but it is a logical fact that existence is entirely dependent upon consciousness. However, it is not necessicarly dependent upon human consciousness. It is possible and logical to assume other rational, conscious beings that are able to perceive things, but who we ourselves, as humans, are unable to perceive, given our tremendous limitations in sensory perception. As a matter of fact, such beings may, in fact, be a logical necessity.

For instance, we are often told that our earth, sun, and stars have existed for billions of years before the first conscious, rational human being ever perceived them. If we assume that humans are the only rational, conscious beings in this universe (which is a logical assumption given that we know of no other rational, conscious beings similar to ourselves), then we are faced with a bizarre dilemma: the earth, the sun, and even the stars never existed before the first conscious, rational human being! They literally did not exist. Why couldn't they exist before the first human? Because existence and consciousness are bound together, and cannot be logically separated.

But what about the fossil record, radio-metric dating, geological dating, and all those other measurements that point to the fact that the earth, sun, and stars were here long before us? Well, if human beings are the only conscious, rational beings in this universe, then all those measurements are utterly meaningless.

But it's not only the history of the universe that becomes suspect, but even human history! I've been told that there was once this person named George Washington who existed, but no longer does. Can I used any of my sensory perceptions to verify that George Washington existed? No I can not, because my sensory perceptions are bound to time, and George Washington, I am told, existed before I did. Hence, my only recourse is to believe the testimony of others, whether it be through their words or their art. Even if someone were to show me George Washington's bones, I could only believe it were George Washington through someone's testimony, not being able to go back in time and watch George decay for myself.

Hence, there must be something beyond our rational, conscious sense perceptions if all these historical accounts have any truth to them. This something must necessarily even be beyond a collective human consciousness. Otherwise, we face the dilemma proposed by the famous Bertrand Russell thought experiment: suppose everything we perceive were just created five minutes ago, including our perception that we've been here much longer; can we prove such a proposition wrong? The answer is no. The problem is due to our limitations as creatures of time.

In order for history to be true, in order for the earth to have existed before we did, then there must be rational, conscious beings who are able to perceive things beyond our own very limited perceptions. Such beings must necessarily live outside of the constraints of time and must be capable of perfect knowledge of everything in our universe. In fact, they would have to live beyond the constraints of our universe, as it seems our physical laws would impair their ability to know our universe perfectly. It is logical and possible to propose that their exists "something" beyond our own universe, a place where our universe can be perfectly perceived but not be bound to our laws and limitations.

These beings must necessarily be rational (capable of logic) and conscious, for beings that do not have the properties of rationality and consciousness can not possibly exist without some conscious, rational being to perceive them. It is a logical impossibility.

The reason why these beings must necessarily exist is because consciousness and existence are logically bound together, and our own world and it's history could not logically exist unless there are rational, conscious beings who are, in effect, perceiving it for us! In other words, their perception of our existence (and our universe) allows our universe to exist, and to even have a past and future. Our very limited consciousness and knowledge does not allow us to sustain our own universe.

It is also necessary for these beings to be complete in themselves: they do not need yet another set of beings beyond them to perceive them, but the are capable of perfectly perceiving each other, there universe, and our universe. Otherwise, we are just begging the question.

Surprisingly, it might be necessary for there to be more than one of these beings, otherwise a lone being, living outside of time and before our universe (or any universe), would have nothing to perceive but himself, which is a possible logical contradiction. Can a being be conscious of just itself, or must there must be something beyond yourself to perceive, even if it is just another being?

It is necessary that these beings always existed, and have never not existed. While that is seemingly impossible given our limitations, it does not violate any laws of logic.

One cannot speak of existence existing before consciousness. If there is no consciousness, there can be no existence of any kind. Surprisingly, you cannot even speak of "nothing existing", for that is a logical contradiction, for the only way "nothing" can exist is for a consciousness to perceive it, hence a consciousness would exist, therefore something exists. You either have existence or you do not.

One also cannot speak of consciousness existing before existence, since if consciousness exists, then so must existence.

And, most surprisingly, rationality must co-exist simultaneously with existence and with consciousness, and not precede nor come after them. In order for a being to know it exists and know it is conscious, it must necessarily be able to understand non-existence and non-consciousness, even if it is impossible for it to have those traits! For instance, if two of these beings co-exist, they would know there are two, and not three, or one, or twelve million. (It may even be necessary for there to be more than two of these beings, perhaps at least three or more, for if there were just two you might have a bizarre situation where the one being, seeing the other, thinks he is perceiving himself! Having three or more would eliminate that problem.)

To summarize:

1. Existence and consciousness cannot be logically divided, they are necessarily bound together due to the laws of logic.

2. Surprisingly, rationality, often described as a property of consciousness, cannot be logically separated from consciousness and existence, for you cannot even know what existence and consciousness is without being aware of non-existence and non-consciousness.

3. Since our own ability to perceive our universe is extremely limited, we, as human beings, do not have the ability to sustain our universe's existence through our own consciousness and rationality. If everything that exists must, by logical necessity, be perceived and known, then there must be a rational, conscious set of beings who are able to perfectly know our universe for our benefit. This would include both tangible (i.e. material) and intangible (i.e. laws of logic) elements.

4. Since our physical laws and limitations of our universe make it highly unlikely (if not impossible) for these beings to exist within our universe, they must necessarily exist outside of it, not bound by our limitations.

5. Since they exist outside of our limitation of time, they have always existed and have never not existed.

6. And since it is a possible contradiction for a single being to have a consciousness awareness of only himself, there might be a multiplicity of these beings.

7. Assuming our universe had a beginning, these beings must act as our "witnesses" to sustain our universe's existence. It could be rightly said that their perfect knowledge of our universe is the foundation that allows our universe to exist!

8. Whether or not these beings created this universe of ours, or even want us to know who they are, is beyond the scope of this argument. However, there is an implied causality, and if there is an effect (our existence as humans), it is logical to assume a cause.

The most important point to remember is this: consciousness and existence are inseparable, but since our knowledge as human beings of all that exists is very limited, then there must be other beings who are perfect in knowledge, and who act as the means by which our universe exists.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

He Lived the Splendor of Truth



My farvorite recent picture of the pope, trying hard to chase away some white doves from his papal apartment! He was truly a man of peace, and will be greatly missed.

In a fine tribue to the pope, Thomas Hibbs wrote an article entitled He Lived the Splendor of Truth. Highly recommended.

Pope John Paul II
May 18, 1920 - April 2, 2005

Friday, April 01, 2005

Rebuild.


Rebuild these towers

What is the best possible memorial for those who perished in the awful events of September 11th, 2001? How about rebuilding the World Trade Center towers as they were, with a few safety enhancements?

The picture displayed with this post is NOT the WTC that once stood, but a NEW design for almost identical towers! Now that's the kind of memorial that needs to be built.

It seems there a lot of other people who think that way. Visit the World Trade Center Restoration Movement web site for lots of links to petitions and information concerning the rebuilding of the Twin Towers.

Doing anything else OTHER than rebuilding the towers as they were, would be criminal.

Killed by Euphemisms

A very thoughtful and intelligent editorial about the whole Terri Schiavo affari can be found here:"Killed by Euphemisms"

The editors at National Review correctly point out that the only reason why so many people found the legally sanctioned murder of Terri Schiavo to be such a non-event is the use of so many intentionally misleading euphenisms, espceically the "official" diagnosis of her "persistant vegetative state (PVS)" In other words, Terri was brain-dead, not brain-damaged.

The real lesson I learned from this case is the same lesson I learned from the O.J. Simpson trail: justice can be bought. Acutally, this is nothing new, as the sale of justice has been going on ever since their were judges. However, this may be the very first time in history where a court was willingly corrupted to the extent of ordering someone's murder. Now that is something to be truly shocked by.

Kierkegaard on Individuality

I was waiting on my computer to do some stupid thing, and flipped open my copy of Provocations just to have something to do. My eyes immediately fell upon this passage, which, for some odd reason, I find to be most insightful:
True individuality is measured by this: how long or how far one can endure being alone without the understanding of others. The person who can endure being alone is poles apart from the social mixer. He is miles apart from the man-pleaser., the one who manages successfully with everyone--he who possesses no sharp edges. God never uses such people. The true individual, anyone who is going to be directly involved with God, will not and cannot avoid the human bite. He will be thoroughly mis-understood. God is no friend of cozy human gathering.
It is important to understand what Kierkegaard is NOT saying here, as well as what he is saying. He's not saying that those who are socially inept and loud-mouthed bores are the people who God uses. Rather, it is those people who are more concerned with what God thinks of them in contrast to what their friends, family and neighbors think.

For proof, I cite all four Gospels in the New Testament. Here we see Jesus far more concerned with truth and honesty than making friends and just getting along. He called it going about his Father's business. The Pharisees called it blasphemy. Even with the very real threat of death, Jesus does not sway from the course set by his Father, but stays obedient to the Lord's will to the very end. Certainly Jesus was a victim of the "human bite."

Kierkegaard on Systematic Theology

It seems that the Danish writer/philospher Soren Kierkegaard and I are on the same page when it comes to that insidious evil known only as "systematic theology." Here's a quote from the introduction of the book Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard:
Kierkegaard stands against every form of thinking that bypasses the individual or enables the individual to escape his responsibility before God. He also made an absolute demand that "idea" should be translated into existence (being and doing), which is exactly what his contemporaries, in his opinion, failed to do: "Most systematizers stand in the same relation to their systems as the man who builds a great castle and lives in an adjoining shack; they do not live in their great systematic structure. But in spiritual matters this will always be a crucial objection. Metaphorically speaking, a person's ideas must be the building he lives in--otherwise there is something terribly wrong."

Kierkegaard on Father Abraham

I found the following quote from Soren Kierkegaard in the introduction of the book Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, which, as the title indicates, is a collection of his writings:
"To illustrate the difference between the ethical and religious spheres, Kierkegaard cites Abraham, the "father of all those who believe." Abraham, a righteous man, is the paragon of faith because instead of heeding the moral law--"Thou shall not kill" -- he heeded God's command to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham acted as a true individual because his relationship to God, not to the moral law, was primarey in his life. He did not meerly percieve God through morality or reduce God to the moral law. As a man of faith, Abraham subjected everything, including his ethical actions, to God. he was willing to sacrifice Isaac for the sake of his own relationship to God. He acted because God commanded him to act. He stood before God, answering to no one but God."